Memorandum from the National Association of Head Teachers (NHMCI 07)
1. Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to the Committee's discussions with the newly appointed Chief Inspector for England. Your invitation states that the Committee is likely to want to explore the HMCI appointment process and the way ahead for OFSTED. NAHT does not wish to make any particular points regarding the appointment process, but there are a number of issues regarding the development of inspections that could usefully be raised in your evidence session.
2. A draft Framework for Inspection, to take effect from September 2003, has recently been issued for comment. It would be helpful to explore the thinking of the incoming Chief Inspector in the following areas in particular.
3. The first is that of school self-evaluation. NAHT has strongly supported greater use of self-evaluation in school inspections, and has encouraged its members to set up systems within their schools by which they can evaluate how well the school is doing for its students, and for cohorts of students within the school. A number of models are available to schools, and can provide vital information for the school's development. However, there are workload implications in this; there is a crucial balance to be struck between the benefits self-improvement can bring, and the time that teaching staff need to put into the process. Schools will have to make these decisions for themselves, depending on factors within the school, but will need to be confident that OFSTED will accept the decisions made by schools.
4. The Framework introduces new forms of inspection, standard and enhanced, with the "less effective" schools normally undergoing an enhanced inspection. This raises again the question of criteria by which a school's performance will be judged. There is much more to a successful school than what can readily be measured, so that a school may be successful (dare we say effective) in its context, even though its output test scores at first look low. This is a subject NAHT will itself wish to raise with the Chief Inspector.
5. There can still be difficulties regarding the experience of inspection teams for special schools. Each special school is different, depending on the needs of the students for whom it provides. It is important that team members have direct understanding of the needs of the particular youngsters in the specific school. It is important that a school is inspected by a team whose qualifications and experience match the characteristics of the school. In some cases this will be difficult to achieve, but the school deserves no less.
6. The remit of OFSTED has spread very wide in the years since it was set up to oversee the inspection of schools. It has a role in the quality assurance of childcare provision and in post 16 inspection. Its range of responsibilities continues to grow. To what extent does the Chief Inspector feel confident of OFSTED's ability to focus effectively on all the demands being made on it by developing regulations?
National Association of Head Teachers