Education and Skills Committee

12 July 2007


The Education and Skills Committee today releases its report on The Work of Ofsted.

While the report welcomes the potential for the new Ofsted to take a more comprehensive and strategic view of the issues affecting children, young people and adult learners, it expresses concern at the increasing complexity of this ₓlarge bureaucracy.â‚?

ₓThe new Ofsted has been operating only since April 2007,'' said Barry Sheerman, Chairman of the Committee. ₓWe will be interested to see what will be achieved in the first twelve months and what value has been added by the changes. However, we cannot disguise our concern as to the fitness for purpose of the organisation at the present moment.''

Having heard concerns about the new organisation from a number of sectors which are now under its the remit, the Committee urges Ofsted to make good its intention to engage service users and providers from all of the new sectors it is responsible for.‚

Light-touch inspections:

While, the Committee welcomes moves that reduce the burden of inspection on service providers, changes to the inspection system must still ensure that a rigorous inspection framework, able to easily identify under-performing schools, is maintained.

The Committee also urges Ofsted to ensure that self-evaluations are of sufficient quality and accuracy to be relied on as part of an inspection.

Ofsted needs to ensure that inspectors also have a proper opportunity to test self-evaluation against what is happening in schools. Light-touch inspections should be properly evaluated after two years in operation, the report recommends.

It is also important that previously good schools which may be coasting, or no longer performing at such a high level, are identified early. The Committee therefore urges Ofsted to monitor how successful reduced-tariff inspections are at identifying falling standards.

Lack of subject focus in school inspections could also lead some schools to neglect non-core subjects in order to improve their grading, the report warns. To avoid this, Ofsted should review the size of the sample used to produce subject reviews, it recommends. Some observation of non-core subjects should also be included in all inspections, it recommends.

Inspections and improvement:

While schools, in general, seem satisfied with Ofsted's roleâ‚"assessing quality but not working with schools on the improvement processâ‚"the Committee notes that other sectors are used to an inspection service that also does active improvement work.

It is important therefore that Ofsted clearly communicates to all service users what it does and does not do, the report concludes. It also highlights the need for Ofsted to continue to pass examples of good practice to improvement agencies, to ensure that they provide the best help possible.

ₓIt still appears that Ofsted has no capacity to give advice when a cluster of local schools suffer from systemic underperformance, said Barry Sheerman. ₓThis continues to be a weakness in the inspection system.â‚?

Hard copies of the report are available under strict embargo from the House of Commons Press Gallery and the Reception 7 Millbank SW1P 3JA from 10.30am on Wednesday 11th July 2007, to accredited members of the press only.

Requests for interviews should be directed to Laura Humble on 020 7219 2003/ 07917 488 489.