Children, Schools and Families Bill

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 7:33 pm on 11th January 2010.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Children, Schools and Families Committee 7:33 pm, 11th January 2010

My hon. Friend may well have won me over. What I was trying to get at is that I would have liked a real, holistic change to the national curriculum, so that the vital PSHE fits in well.

On the accountability framework, the Committee published a report on accountability last week. We looked at the matter right through from governing bodies to Ofsted and the new school report card. We found in favour of the school report card and rather liked the school improvement strategies that it underpinned. However, we also found that Governments only ever introduce new forms of accountability, and never take one away, and we are worried that there are now five levels of accountability. The Government are well intentioned and want to move away from the reliance on the publication of tables of the results of tests and examinations, and the school report card will help, but I suspect that it will not be enough to strike the balance that most people in our schools-heads and teachers-want.

Heads and teachers feel tremendous pressure from the different forms of accountability. In particular, they are very worried about accountability through Ofsted. The Committee found Ofsted to be over-large and overburdened-it has now extended into child protection-and we wonder whether an inspection over a day and a half is as good as it could be. Does a lighter-touch inspection, if it is too light, lead the Ofsted inspectors to rely much more heavily on the statistics and test results that they read on the card before they go into the school to do an assessment? The school is where the vital thing happens, but the quality of teaching in the classroom carries much less weight in the balance.

On the licence to practise, I take it that at last we have got to the stage-this seems to be the subtext-at which we have a highly regarded work force with proper qualifications and a five-year renewable licence. I believe that that is probably the way to go, but we will not get there without offering high-quality continuing professional development. Death by PowerPoint is not the way to deliver CPD. CPD must be high quality and delivered alongside that licence to practise. I suspect that part of the Government's agenda with the licence to practise will be to weed out teachers who are not up to the job, which I suppose is a very important aspect of it.

Lastly, the Committee wrote a good report on home-educated children, and the matter has been much discussed in interventions. A very significant percentage of home-educated children are wonderfully educated. I was very impressed by the parents and children I met, but I also believe that we must know where our children are. The Committee came to a compromise view. As the Government were offering a system with a compulsory register with no fines, action, penalties or sanctions, we asked them whether they should try a voluntary system for two years as an olive branch. We said that if that method did not work, the Government should go for a compulsory system.

That was a rattle through the issues. There are some good and some not-so-good provisions in the Bill, but we could say that of all Bills.

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