§ Miss Margaret Jackson
I regret that these figures are not available. It is estimated that some 2,000 schools in any one year are subject to some kind of formal inspection by Her Majesty's inspectors. Her Majesty's inspectors also make numerous informal visits to schools in a largely advisory capacity.
§ Miss Jackson
No, Sir. I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman means by "reporting inspections". He may be referring to full inspections of particular institutions. Such inspections have always been comparatively limited in number. As a rule, they have involved only one type of school. For example, they have rarely been carried out in primary schools. If the hon. Gentleman considers the matter carefully, he will find that Her Majesty's inspectors are doing perhaps even more, in the way of contact and inspections in schools, but on a more informal basis, than in the past. I do 1156 not accept that standards have fallen as greatly as he suggests. As he knows, we are concerned about standards. That is why the Department has set up the assessment of performance unit, for example, to which such work is directed.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
Is there an annual report from the Government inspectors? If there is, will the hon. Lady say what action follows from their inspections?
§ Miss Jackson
There is no annual report from the inspectors on each school in their arca—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?".] If there were to be annual reports, the size of the inspectorate would have to be considerably larger. As I know that Opposition Members are especially anxious to restrain public expenditure, I am sure that that is not a proposal that they would support. Her Majesty's inspectors publish a number of reports, many of them being surveys of special areas or specific age group studies which often cover a great number of schools—perhaps hundreds. It is that sort of work, along with their advisory rôle, that they have increasingly assumed in recent years.