No. 4, 18 December 2008

New Inquiry into School Accountability

The Children, Schools and Families Select Committee is launching the third in a series of inquiries into the underpinnings of the school education system. The first and second inquiries in the series have considered testing and assessment and the National Curriculum respectively. This new inquiry will investigate the school accountability system, specifically inspection and performance reporting in relation to maintained schools in England.

The Committee is interested to receive views on the operation of the current school accountability system, as well as observations on a variety of proposals which have been put forward:

  • The Government has recently published consultation documents on its proposals for 21st Century schools and a new school report card system (the latter a joint consultation with Ofsted). These proposals contain much that is relevant to the issue of school accountability. Details are available here:


  • Ofsted has recently undertaken a consultation exercise and has published proposals for a revised school inspection regime for maintained schools from September 2009. Details are available here:


Written submissions are invited for the Children, Schools and Families Committee's inquiry into school accountability. The terms of reference are set out below and respondents should address themselves to those areas they feel are within their field of experience:


Is it right in principle that schools should be held publicly accountable for their performance?

What should be the fundamental purposes of an accountability system for schools and, in particular:

  • to whom should schools be accountable;
  • for what should they be held accountable;
  • how should they be held to account; and
  • what should be the consequences?

How do other countries hold their schools accountable for their performance and against what criteria?

Is the current accountability system of inspection and performance reporting for schools broadly fit for purpose?

How should schools be held accountable for their performance in the context of increasing collaboration in education provision?


Is an independent inspectorate an appropriate mechanism for holding schools to account?

What is the impact of the inspection process on school performance, including confidence, creativity and innovation?

Are inspectors appropriately qualified and trained to carry out inspections, particularly in the light of the need to report against Every Child Matters outcomes?

Is it appropriate for inspection reports to be placed in the public domain?

How often should inspections be carried out and how long and detailed should these inspections be?

How much notice, if any, should a school receive of an upcoming inspection?

In the context of an inspection, what is the value of:

  • the school's self-assessment;
  • the results of national tests; and
  • the school's contextual value added scores;

and how much weight should be attached to these elements in the inspection report?

In an inspection, how should emphasis be balanced between educational attainment and other aspects of a school's provision, such as the Every Child Matters outcomes?

Should inspections be tailored to the current performance levels of the specific school being inspected and, if so, to what extent?

Has the introduction of a light-touch inspection regime for higher-performing schools been appropriate?

What are the mechanisms for identifying schools which are underperforming and are those mechanisms adequate?

How effective has the classification of "schools causing concern" (special measures or improvement notice) been in supporting improved performance in the schools concerned?

Have School Improvement Partners been of benefit to schools?

Is the current procedure for complaints about inspections adequate?

Performance reporting (other than the Ofsted inspection report)

What aspects of a school's performance should be measured and how?

How should these performance measurements be reported and by whom?

To whom should this information be made available?

What is the effect of the current system of public performance reporting (Achievement and Attainment Tables www.dcsf.gov.uk/performancetables/, and the online School Profile schoolsfinder.direct.gov.uk) on a school's performance, including confidence, creativity and innovation?

What is the impact on schools of league tables published by the press?

How useful is this information to stakeholders, particularly parents?

School report card

What might a school report card usefully provide that is not covered by the current performance reporting system?

Are there any issues which the school report card should avoid or seek to inhibit?

Is the school report card potentially a sound basis for:

  • informing parents;
  • providing a set of prioritised outcomes for schools;
  • providing a starting point for Ofsted inspection; and
  • providing a management tool for government?

Could the school report card appropriately replace some Ofsted reporting?

The Committee asks for written submissions in accordance with the guidelines stated below by noon on Friday 27 February 2009.

Please note

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to csfcom@parliament.uk and marked "School Accountability Inquiry". The Committee's strong preference is for submissions in electronic form, although hard copy originals will be accepted and should be sent to Susan Ramsay, Committee Assistant, at:

Children, Schools and Families Select Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA

Each submission should:

  • be no more than 3,000 words in length;
  • begin with a short summary in bullet point form;
  • have numbered paragraphs; and
  • (if in electronic form) be in Word format or a rich text format with as little use of colour or logos as possible.

For Data Protection purposes, it would be helpful if individuals submitting written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Please supply a postal address so that a copy of the Committee's report can be sent to you upon publication.

A guide for written submissions to Select Committees may be found on the parliamentary website at:


Please also note that:

  • Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organization submitting it is specifically authorised.
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, although not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
  • The Committee does not normally investigate individual cases.