Memorandum from the National Union of
I thought that it would be helpful if I sent
you a letter setting out some questions which arise from the HMCI
report for 2000-01. It is a detailed report and the questions
set out below are not inclusive. There are other equally pertinent,
questions that arise from the report.
1. In relation to the standards achieved
by pupils, the report states that "in some key areas there
has been little or no measurable progress" and that "the
greatest improvements in standards have been achieved, in the
main, in the schools with the lowest attainment". (Paragraph
How sustainable does HMCI think continual
improvement in the rates of pupil attainment for all schools is?
What further measures does HMCI think
are necessary in order to reach the Government's Key Stage 2 targets,
for 2002 and beyond?
2. The report notes a reduction of standards
of reading at the end of Key Stage 2 "reflecting the reduced
attention given to the teaching of reading comprehension".
Does HMCI think that this finding
is related in any way to the improvement in standards of writing
3. The report states that the National Numeracy
Strategy (NNS) "has had only limited impact on standards
this year". (Paragraph 5)
To what does HMCI attribute this
4. The report comments that "achievement
in all the other foundation subjects and religious education is
good or better in fewer than four schools in 10". Geography
and design and technology are identified as giving particular
cause for concern. (Paragraphs 8-9) Later in the section, schools'
"drive to improve performance in the national tests"
is identified as a key factor in the finding that only one school
in five is able to provide a curriculum which is "broad,
exciting and challenges pupils". (Paragraphs 36-40)
Does HMCI agree that the above findings
provide firm evidence of an unacceptable narrowing of the primary
curriculum, due to an over emphasis on end of Key Stage tests
Does HMCI think that any benefits
associated with the end of Key Stage tests outweigh such disadvantages?
How does HMCI think that primary
schools should address the issue of curriculum breadth and balance
as an entitlement for all primary pupils, given the difficulties
of schools in managing the current curriculum requirements?
5. The report identifies continuing weaknesses
in the monitoring and evaluation of teaching, in particular the
quality of feedback to teachers and the limited deployment of
leading or expert teachers. (Paragraphs 13-15)
What does HMCI think are the main
barriers to improvements in this area? What strategies would he
suggest schools use to address this issue?
6. The report notes that the quality of
teaching in both primary and secondary schools continues to improve
and that the amount that is good or better has never been higher.
(Paragraphs 21+, 98+)
To what does HMCI attribute this
Can he identify any particular initiatives
or interventions which might have affected this improvement, or
does he believe this finding might reflect schools' greater familiarity
with and understanding of the inspection process?
7. The report comments that "teachers"
planning is effective in most schools" although "extensive
and over-elaborate planning still creates unnecessary pressure
on teachers' time". (Paragraph 29)
Given the finding in the PwC Teacher
Workload report that "over-elaborate planning" was perceived
by teachers as being driven by OFSTED, what steps does OFSTED
intend to take to address this situation?
Does HMCI agree that it would be
both useful and timely for OFSTED to provide teachers with explicit
guidance on what it considers to be "fit for purpose"
8. The report is critical of the standards
of achievement in ICT at both Key Stages 3 and 4 and finds that
"three in ten schools at Key Stage 3 and almost half at Key
Stage 4 do not meet statutory curriculum requirements" in
relation to ICT. (Paragraph 68, 112)
Would HMCI agree that the standards
of pupil achievement in ICT and the ability of schools to comply
with statutory curriculum requirements are very much dependent
on the level of ICT resourcing in schools and the levels of teacher
skills and confidence in the use of ICT, in particular, the levels
of personal ICT access?
9. The report finds that pupil attendance
and behaviour continue to cause concern, with detrimental effects
upon both the effectiveness of schools and overall levels of attainment.
Why does HMCI think that behaviour
and attendance continue to be unsatisfactory overall?
What does HMCI believe to be the
effect of Government requirements to set targets for reducing
exclusions and truancy on pupil behaviour?
How does HMCI think that schools
should address the issue of "unjustified absence condoned
10. The report considers the effect of various
funding streams on schools, including the Ethnic Minority Achievement
Grant, noting both positive and negative implications for schools.
Would HMCI expand on the issues identified
by inspectors, in particular, the problems associated with the
conditions of EMAG and the finding that the diversity of funding
streams has "over-stretched the capacity of some schools"?
Could HMCI identify any funding streams
which have been reported to be particularly problematic?
What does HMCI believe are the implications
of this finding for future Government policy?
11. The report states that one in five specialist
schools does not achieve the aims of the Specialist Schools Programme
and comments that this "is a disappointing use of opportunities
and resources" (Paragraphs 147-153)
What does HMCI believe are the implications
of this finding for the current expansion of the Specialist Schools
In HMCI's view, does the programme
represent value for money?
12. The report notes that "colleges
have generally made more progress in introducing the new key skills
qualifications than schools" and that assessment requirements
are problematic for many schools. In addition, students are found
to be "not enthusiastic" about the key skills qualification.
(Paragraphs 179, 185)
In HMCI's opinion, what are the main
difficulties associated with the key skills qualifications for
school sixth forms?
How does HMCI think key skills courses
should be developed in the light of this finding?
13. The report outlines the new post-16
inspection arrangements resulting from the Learning and Skills
Act 2000. (Paragraphs 188-189)
How will OFSTED ensure that school
sixth forms are not over-inspected, given that they will be subject
to both Section 10 and post-16 area inspections?
What role does HMCI envisage that
Learning and Skills Councils will have for quality assurance in
school sixth forms?
14. The preparation of Individual Education
Plans (IEPs) is found not to be done well in many schools and
in some cases "has developed into the production of lengthy
and over-detailed documents". (Paragraph 242)
Could HMCI expand on the problems
associated with the writing of IEPs? In his opinion, what are
the main drivers of these problems?
15. The section relating to PRUs is critical
of the standards reached by most pupils and the breadth of the
curriculum offered. (Paragraphs 250-264)
To what extent does HMCI think that
factors such as lack of resources and specialist teachers have
contributed to these weaknesses?
16. The report highlights OFSTED's concerns
about the proportion of schools with serious weaknesses which
fail to make sufficient improvements and subsequently are found
to require special measures. By contrast, schools in special measures
and those which have been removed from special measures have generally
shown continued improvement. (Paragraph 289-291)
What measures does HMCI think could
be taken to provide more effective support for schools with serious
17. The section on Education Action Zones
(EAZs) identifies a number of successful aspects about the initiative,
including the development of teachers' and pupils' skills and
an Improvement in standards in zone primary schools. The report
comments that "the outstanding issue for zones is to ensure
that the useful work they have done is sustained when their funding
ends". (Paragraphs 306-313)
Given that the Government has stated
that the EAZ initiative will not continue, how does HMCI think
that zones will be able to sustain effective programmes?
What lessons does HMCI think have
been learnt from the EAZ initiative, in particular, issues related
to educational sponsorship and central targeted funding?
18. The findings relating to the Graduate
Teacher Programme (GTP), in particular, that trainees should have
made greater progress during their training, give cause for concern,
particularly as the programme is intended to recruit teachers
in shortage subjects and those from under-represented groups.
Would HMCI agree that the current
requirements on schools relating to the GTP have not been adequately
resourced and that the lack of necessary training and time needed
by teachers to fulfil their responsibilities to trainees has had
a significant effect on schools' abilities to comply with GTP
What actions does HMCI believe need
to be taken to strengthen the GTP?
19. The statement that "there are real
problems in recruiting teachers and retaining them, and these
have got worse over the past two years" is a cause for considerable
concern. In particular, the findings that "over one in five
NQTs leave the profession during their first three years in teaching"
and "the more disadvantaged the school, the higher the percentage
of teachers leaving the school" should be viewed with considerable
alarm. In his commentary, HMCI identifies four major reasons why
teachers leave the profession: pupil behaviour, workload, pay
and poor public perceptions of the profession. (Paragraphs 375-386)
While the Government has begun to
take action to deal with the poor level of teacher retention,
does HMCI believe that enough is being done to tackle all four
factors he has identified as significant?
Does HMCI believe that the present
difficulties in the recruitment and retention of suitably qualified
teachers is a significant factor in a number of those weaknesses
identified by inspectors in some schools as outlined in the Annual
What practical steps does OFSTED
intend to take to contribute to the national priority of reducing
20. The report outlines continuing concerns
about the quality of teaching by temporary (supply) teachers and
highlights several aspects of these teachers' professional knowledge
and skills which have contributed to unsatisfactory teaching.
To what extent does HMCI believe
that a lack of adequate professional development opportunities
have contributed to the poor performance of temporary teachers?
Given the increased reliance by schools
on teacher supply agencies, and the increased number and profitability
of such agencies, would HMCI agree that teacher supply agencies
should be required to take greater responsibility for the training,
quality and suitability of those teachers they place in schools?
21. The report notes that all the LEAs which
have been reinspected after an initially unsatisfactory report
have improved. (Paragraph 398)
Could HMCI expand on these findings?
In particular, is he aware of any lessons to be learnt regarding
support provided by other LEAs or the comparative effectiveness
I hope these questions are useful to you.
In addition, I would like to comment on the
press release which accompanied the invitation to provide a written
submission to HMCI's Annual Report. The Select Committee's recommendations
in paragraph three, relating to the levels of stress created by
the current inspection regime, would be regarded as patronising
and offensive by many teachers and headteachers. It is not enough
to "urge headteachers and governing bodies to keep a sense
of proportion when preparing for inspection" whilst the high-stakes
nature of school inspections remains. Such a statement would seem
to imply that it is the fault of teachers and headteachers themselves,
rather than the inspection process, that inspection causes stress
for so many in the teaching profession.
The NUT has taken the position consistently
that the current inspection arrangements need reform. I would
like to remind the Select Committee of the NUT's own proposals
for school inspections, contained within a document entitled "Evaluation,
Inspection and Support-A System that Works" and which set
out a coherent, systematic and integrated approach to both internal
and external school evaluation. I enclose a copy of this report
for the further consideration of the Select Committee.
Education and Equal Opportunities