Clause 3 - Annual and other reports to Secretary of State

Education Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 22nd March 2005.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I understand that clause 3 re-enacts a previous measure. It asks the Secretary of State to lay a copy of a very important document—the annual report of the chief inspector—before Parliament.

All sorts of documents are laid before Parliament every day. We may, as we speak, hear a quiet thud in the background as many more are laid before the House, but will the Minister say whether he has given any thought to the idea of actually doing something with it when it is laid before Parliament? For example, Select Committees consider estimates and so on. This is clearly a pretty important document each year on the nation’s educational history and is worthy of serious debate. It may not be the best use of the document if the clause simply means that the document is laid before Parliament, and that all that we are mandated to do is to receive it. Has the Minister given any thought to the dynamic way in which the document might be used?

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

As the hon. Gentleman said, the clause re-enacts provisions of the School Inspections Act 1996, which require the chief inspector to make an annual report that is laid before Parliament. The publication of the chief inspector’s annual report is one of the key events in the education year, so it is already a key event and is given a lot of publicity. Few people in Parliament or in education are unaware of what the report is about. It always attracts enormous attention.

The report distils all the inspections evidence that Ofsted collects into the now familiar state of the nation education report. That evidence makes an important contribution to the national debate and to Government thinking. Indeed, one of the Select Committee on Education and Skills biannual meetings, in which the chief inspector focuses on the report, provides a broad view of the system for those working in it and celebrates their success. A copy of the report is sent to all head teachers, and particularly successful schools and colleges are named in it.

The clause also re-enacts provisions that allow the chief inspector to make and publish other reports. Ofsted publishes more than 100 schematic and subject surveys a year, all of which have important things to say. They highlight good practice, identify areas that need improvement, and inform the development of policy.

Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

The Minister appears to be saying that everyone takes heed of this document. I agree that everyone will do so, because it is significant in its own right. I simply suggest that a more formal process might make it clear what lessons could be learnt year by year, but there is no mechanism for that. Points can be made in the Department for Education and Skills, on the Floor of the House and in Select Committee.   The document is so significant that it is worth ensuring every year that it does not go through such a process by default. If the Minister has given an assurance that that will never happen, so be it.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Schools)

I mentioned the biannual meeting of the Education and Skills Committee. I re-emphasise that the report has a very high profile and receives a great deal of media attention, as the hon. Gentleman will have seen in the past few weeks and months. We are satisfied with the current system and the way in which the report is dealt with.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.