Clause 98

Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 28th February 2008.

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Publication of inspection reports

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

I beg to move amendment No. 131, in clause 98, page 55, line 41, at end insert

‘except for reports of inspections carried out in response to a specific complaint.’.

This is a probing amendment to ascertain the implications of the clause and what happens if a specific complaint against a school led to an inspection and the complaint derived from a confidential matter, perhaps relating to something that happened to a pupil in the school. Will the Minister address that point?

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

Inspection reports on all educational institutions are published regularly, so that parents and other interested parties have access to objective judgments about the quality of education provided. Indeed, the provisions of the Bill will add to that information by having Ofsted report on registration of a school, which it currently does not have to do.

Clause 98 follows the established practice in allowing the chief inspector to arrange for the publication of any inspection report she prepares following inspections of independent educational institutions. Under the Bill, the Secretary of State will continue to be able to prescribe the manner in which the chief inspector’s reports are published. The clause does not require, as the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton said, the chief inspector automatically to publish inspection reports carried out in response to a specific complaint, but it gives her the power to do so. That is an important distinction, because it is easy to see a situation where inspectors find no evidence to substantiate a complaint, which may have been made maliciously. In such cases it is unlikely that publishing the report would be appropriate, and the clause gives the chief inspector the discretion to decide not to publish.

On the other hand, there are circumstances in which the chief inspector may decide that it is in the public interest to publish a report, even though it has been prompted by a complaint. For instance, if an inspection stemming from a complaint identified serious regulatory failings, the chief inspector might decide that it would be appropriate to publish the report so that parents were aware of the shortcomings of the institution.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

Am I correct in thinking that children would not be named in the course of the report—that it would be anonymised, so that the public reading the report would not be aware of embarrassing details about particular youngsters?

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

I am confident that safeguards will be in place, as in the normal course of operations—how we report court proceedings and so on—to protect children. I do not have the specific information with me now, but if it is any different to the common-sense arrangement that the hon. Gentleman and I envisage, I will write to the Committee to inform Members of what the situation will be.

On the basis that we have a flexible system, which allows discretion according to individual circumstances, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

On the basis of those words, I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 98 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 99 ordered to stand part of the Bill.