Corrected oral evidence: Citizenship and civic engagement—follow-up
Thursday 10 February 2022
Liaison Committee—members present: Lord Gardiner of Kimble (The Chair); Lord Collins of Highbury; Baroness Scott of Needham Market.
Citizenship and Civic Engagement Committee—members present: Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (former Chair); Baroness Barker (former member); Lord Blunkett (former member); Baroness Eaton (former member).
Evidence Session No. 2 Virtual Proceeding Questions 12 - 23
I: Mark Gifford, Chief Executive, National Citizen Service; Chris Russell, National Director for Education, Ofsted.
Mark Gifford and Chris Russell.
Q12 The Chair: Good afternoon. A very warm welcome to our witnesses to a meeting of the Liaison Committee and follow-up of the Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement. I would be grateful if the witnesses would introduce themselves, and then I will hand over to Lord Hodgson.
Mark Gifford: Good afternoon. I am the CEO of the National Citizen Service, which I joined in March 2020, so I have not presented before the committee or submitted any evidence, but thank you very much for inviting me today.
Chris Russell: I am one of Her Majesty’s inspectors and the national director for education at Ofsted. I am responsible in the education directorate for all our policy work across the education remit areas.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Thank you both very much for coming. I know that Baroness Barker had an interest in the interplay between Ofsted and NCS. I will ask her to press her question.
Q13 Baroness Barker: We have been told by some witnesses that “the need for education for effective citizenship is vital if we are to collectively tackle the challenges we face in society and to create a more inclusive democracy”, although there was a bit of dissent in our previous session. First, do you agree with that? Secondly, we need to probe the effectiveness of the NCS and Ofsted in delivering a citizenship curriculum as it is at the moment.
Chris Russell: Certainly, at Ofsted, we absolutely agree that this area is a vital part of education. A short while before the COVID lockdown period, we introduced a new education inspection framework, and we very much changed the focus in that and put a sharper focus on certain elements through a judgment of personal development. A very important part relates to citizenship issues. Some of the early parts of the section on it in the handbook talk, for example, about important areas being developing “Responsible, respectful and active citizens who are able to play their part and become actively involved in public life as adults”, and developing and deepening “Pupils’ understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, individual liberty, the rule of law and mutual respect and tolerance”. I could go on.
In the criteria for personal development, citizenship and related areas are very prominent. Clearly, when we inspect a school we are looking very closely at whether the academic, technical and vocational education is of a suitably high quality, but equally we are looking at those other elements and ensuring that those really important aspects of education are done well by the school too. No school will be judged well on inspection if it is not getting both of those elements right. We very much see those two elements as very closely aligned. To an extent, we separate them in the judgments in the inspection framework, but we see them very closely aligned in an effective school.
Baroness Barker: That evidence does not align with what we have just been told by the Association for Citizenship Teaching, who explained to us that even at the most basic level teachers do not know where this sits as part of citizenship and part of the national curriculum.
Chris Russell: When we look at education through the education inspection framework, we cannot look at everything; we look selectively. To look at the quality of education we focus particularly on a number of subject areas and do a number of deep dives, but we are not inspecting individual elements of the curriculum. We are looking at the school’s holistic curriculum through the lens of those particular areas.
Similarly, when we look at personal development, we are looking at a broad range of elements that contribute to pupils’ personal development—elements of citizenship, elements of fundamental British values, character, et cetera. Of course, an inspection cannot look at absolutely everything. We are looking at the big picture and the extent to which the school is enabling the young people to succeed generally, interact well with each other and become active citizens in the future.
Baroness Barker: To clarify that, can you name another part of the national curriculum that would not be inspected routinely?
Chris Russell: With the size of inspection tariff that we have, it is worth pointing out that many schools now do not get a full inspection; they get a reduced inspection. It is what we call a Section 8 inspection. Even on a full inspection, we do not go in and check every part of the national curriculum and check that the school is delivering every part of the curriculum. We focus on certain areas. We look through those and more generally at the whole curriculum, but we do not go in to look at compliance with particular elements in that way.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Can we press a little bit on that? From hearing what you are saying, it sounds to me as though you think everything is pretty much all right. Do we have enough teachers of citizenship education? Do we have enough investment in it? We are told that we do not, but you seem to be saying that it is pretty much on the button.
Chris Russell: I have to caveat what I say, because we inspect schools, we make judgments, and we do not judge all schools to be good or outstanding; we judge a significant proportion of schools to require improvement or to be inadequate. There is a significant number of schools—not a huge number—where those areas are the things that cause the school to be judged wanting, with other things, or in some cases specifically where the school has been judged to require improvement or is judged inadequate because it has particular weaknesses in some elements of those areas.
I am not saying that everything is perfect, but from the evidence we have I would say that we judge most schools to be good. That does not mean that those schools are perfect—they may well have weaknesses, and they may have weaknesses in those areas—but we judge the majority of schools that we see to be good. We think that they are generally doing a good job on the broad elements of developing young people, enabling young people to interact positively together, and to do the kinds of things that will enable them to contribute positively as they grow up. Those are our findings in the context of our education inspection framework.
As I said, we introduced a new education inspection framework just before the COVID lockdown, which looks more sharply in a number of ways. Because of COVID and the need to suspend routine inspection, which we had to do for over 18 months in the end, that education inspection framework is still quite new. We ran it for six months before COVID, and we have now been inspecting again for about five or six months. It is still a new framework, and we have just put in some new training on personal development, which has a significant part in the inspection of citizenship. In the summer, we want to use that and use the evidence that we have from our inspections to look more closely at what we can say about personal development and citizenship, and we hope to be able to publish something in the summer that will look in more detail at some of these issues.
Q14 Lord Blunkett: We recommended a review. You have done a review. What you have not done is take any notice of what the committee’s evidence displayed, leading to highlighting in that review what quality delivery would mean. Instead, you have combined the personal metric of what you might be looking for in PSHE or in terms of character with citizenship—that is, the “me”, not the “us”.
This is not personal. I am not shooting the messenger. But let us be clear; we met your chief inspector and colleagues. It is blindingly obvious now from taking further evidence that Ofsted as an entity does not even know what citizenship education is about. That might be because, although we are all taught maths and English to varying degrees of success, people have not in the past experienced the teaching of citizenship and the collective engagement that leads to things like teamwork, which businesses are always telling us they need. If it is individualised, as you have described it, it will not actually meet what you read out from the handbook, will it? There seems to be a terrible schizophrenia in Ofsted about what you are looking at and what the outcome should be.
Chris Russell: We have produced a new education inspection framework, but we have not yet done the review that was talked about. That is because we had to produce the new education inspection framework first, and we felt that there would not be value in doing the kind of review that was talked about until we had done that. We felt that we had to have a reasonable time doing that before we could draw on the evidence there. Clearly, that was, like many things, affected by COVID, and we were not able to inspect in our normal way for 18 months, so we lost some time.
To come back to what you said, I appreciate that we have citizenship and other elements in the judgment about personal development. We do not make a judgment about citizenship, but there are strong elements of citizenship in the criteria for the personal development judgment. It is not just about the individual’s personal development; it goes beyond the individual to the general, to the kinds of things that you talked about—how people work in teams and interact in teams and interact together. I would say that is a strong thread. Looking at the training that we recently did for inspectors on this area, a strong thread in it was the importance of that element.
Another important thing that we have done with this framework compared with previous frameworks is that we have strengthened the criteria but we have also strengthened what schools need to do to be judged good, and, particularly, to be judged outstanding. To be judged outstanding, a school has to meet all the good criteria consistently and securely before doing anything else. Many of those criteria relate to citizenship. A school is not going to be judged outstanding or good unless it is doing well broadly in these areas. There are about six inadequate criteria. If a school meets any of those criteria, the school will not be judged outstanding. A number of those relate very closely to citizenship. One of them is that pupils are unprepared for life in modern Britain. If a school is judged to meet any of those, the school will be judged inadequate.
It is a strong part of the framework. That does not mean that we cannot strengthen our inspection of that area. As I said, we are working in the tariff that we have for inspections, which is much smaller than it was a number of years ago, but we absolutely are committed to strengthening our inspection practice in this area. That will come from the work that we will do in reviewing later as well as producing something that we can publish.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Mr Gifford, I promise we will send some incoming in your direction, but Baroness Eaton wants to ask a question.
Baroness Eaton: You mentioned deep dives earlier in your comments, Mr Russell. In what way does Ofsted decide to do a deep dive, and when would it be likely that you could do a deep dive on citizenship education, bearing in mind the attention that is being put on it at the moment?
Chris Russell: In general, in picking which subjects we would do a deep dive on in a school, it is important to stress the way that works. What we are not trying to do by a group of deep dives is an aggregated subject inspection. It does not work like that. It is a way in which we can look at the school, and how the school develops the curriculum, the way it sees the importance of things and so on. We pick the subjects in discussion with a head teacher. There might seem to be particular strengths of the school that illustrate things. There might be areas that have been weak, and that the school has been working on, which can tell us a lot about the impact of the school on the curriculum and the progress it might have made. It is a bit of a process to try to work out what deep dives will give us the best picture and view of a school and its curriculum.
People can do a deep dive in citizenship, and people have done a deep dive in citizenship. Where we have pitched it now, because we always look at personal development, we have put it more in that than thinking that we will do a separate deep dive. It is more that we are strengthening the way we would look at those elements in that judgment, rather than doing a separate deep dive, which means that it comes under the microscope in every inspection, as not every subject would because we would be looking at particular subject areas in deep dives.
Lord Collins of Highbury: I am not sure that I understand your response. You keep saying that you possibly are doing something, but it seems that your practice is that you do not do it. The Minister, in his letter to us, was quite clear that the whole way of justifying his position was to say to the Chair at the time, Lord McFall, that the new education inspection framework came into effect. You have referred to that. He referred to the quality education assessment process that involves deep dives, and would involve citizenship education. Evidence we have heard is that in practice it does not involve deep dives. You have said that it does not involve deep dives because you are looking at it through the prism of PSHE. I am not clear what your answer is.
Chris Russell: We can do deep dives in citizenship. We have done deep dives in citizenship. In our inspection work, we will always look at personal development, and we will always look at citizenship as an important part of personal development. Aside from the deep dives that we may do, and that is a small number of subjects in any school, in our full inspections we will look to make the personal development judgment, and an important part of that, and an important part of the criteria for that, links to this area.
Lord Blunkett: I fear, Chair, that Mr Russell, on behalf of Ofsted, has simply reinforced that Ofsted does not know what citizenship education is about.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Perhaps, Mr Russell, in fairness to you, you might, when you get back to base, so to speak, care to drop us a note. You have heard views from various people around the committee—Lord Collins, Baroness Eaton and Lord Blunkett. It would be very helpful if you could give us a considered statement. We are confused about what the deep dive data really is, so could you tell us where you are doing deep dives, and how it is happening, and give us a bit more precision than you have been able to give us this afternoon?
Baroness Eaton: You said that you had done a deep dive on citizenship education. Perhaps you could tell us a bit more about what that actually showed.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Can we ask that as a follow-up afterwards? Baroness Barker, we have not allowed Mr Gifford to say a word. Would you like to reframe your question to let him have a go?
Q15 Baroness Barker: We concentrated so much on that because, as we noted in our last report, Ofsted is one of the very few bodies that has the responsibility to do this work and to find the evidence. That is why we have been grilling you this afternoon.
Mr Gifford, perhaps you might care to follow on from our previous discussion by explaining to us whether the involvement of the NCS is a prime factor in the concentration on personal development rather than on citizenship in the curriculum.
Mark Gifford: Thank you very much. I will deal with that point first. The NCS, as a social development programme, is focused on several things, but the primary vision that we have is a country of connected, confident, caring citizens where everybody feels at home. Part of that is social cohesion, which in our definition is social mobility, particularly focused at the moment on helping young people to be world-ready and work-ready—the skills that you learn outside the classroom—from an employment perspective. Part of it is social inclusion. Are you respecting and celebrating differences while uniting behind the values that unite us? Then there is social good. Do we have an opportunity to volunteer to help solve the issues that we have?
The NCS has a primary factor in personal development. It is about personal development, but it is also about how you interconnect the golden thread in your role in society and how you believe in that. To go back to the first question about where the education is and where the link is, structured interventions in schools and outside schools show great impact. It becomes a habit. One of your previous speakers talked about an ecosystem. I see it as a used muscle. If young people have done an NCS programme, compared with peers who have not, for years after they volunteer on average eight hours a month more. They are 12% more likely to have political engagement. We saw that in COVID. A lot of young people who had done the programme stepped up to help in their community, to give blood for the first time and to give support in elections. It is about personal development, because confidence is key—mixing with others—but it is also about the skills to help you in the world around you.
Baroness Barker: Do you have any comparative data with other organisations?
Mark Gifford: I can get that to you. It is a great question for somebody who has not come here before. Our data is not just done by us. As we are a public body, we have to be independently assessed. Those figures are done by Kantar for the Government, and go to the Library of the House of Commons. I will check that and submit them to the committee afterwards.
Baroness Barker: Thank you.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: We will move on. I realise that in my excitement I forgot to declare my interest. I am the author of a book called Britain’s Demographic Challenge, in which we referred to some of the work we did in our earlier report. I should have said that before.
Lord Blunkett: I declared mine earlier.
Baroness Eaton: Likewise.
Q16 Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Can we talk about government leadership and co-ordination across departments now? Is there sufficient co-ordination in government to enable the two of you to operate effectively? If there is not, how, when and why should it be improved?
Mark Gifford: Again, I come relatively new to this. I have been in charge of the NCS for about 18 months, and prior to that I spent 23 years in business. I have learned from the trust perspective, and from my interactions with government in a global pandemic.
My starting point is that in any conversations with officials, advisers or Ministers there is a desire to co-ordinate, and, where there are blockages, to unlock those blockages. We saw great examples in the global pandemic, particularly with the Minister I am responsible to in DCMS, on how we support DfE and how we support the non-formal education recovery in the sector. I see a real attempt to co-ordinate and I see where there are blockages and an open ear to what the issue is, what we can do, and how we can unlock it.
I believe that as a public body we do not play a passive role. If there are things where there is a lack of co-ordination, it is incumbent on me to say, “I think this is what we could do better”, or to take action. Inevitably, at times everybody could be better. Things could be better co-ordinated. My experience in a global pandemic on specific topics—are we equipping young people, have we amplified their voice, how are we supporting them, what does volunteering look like?—is that it has been topic led, and I have seen the leaders of those topics do what they can to unblock. I have seen where there are government issues. There is a great example with Kickstart. We were one of the organisations that became a gateway organisation, and it was difficult to navigate through government because it has multiple departments. I thought our home Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Baroness Barran in particular, and Mims Davies in DWP, went out of their way to help that co-ordination and help unlock. That would be my observation.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Mr Russell, do you want to add to that?
Chris Russell: It is probably not for me to add anything to that from our position as an inspectorate.
Q17 Baroness Eaton: Mr Gifford, you spoke in your last comments about the question that I was going to ask, which was about the relationship with DCMS and how to improve take-up and interest in Education for your particular organisation. Can you highlight some of the ways that have made that positive and give some examples of where DCMS and the Department for Education have enabled more people to take up the NCS?
Mark Gifford: I can give two great examples, and if you wish me to expand on those that would be superb. The NCS is primarily known for a big residential programme in the summer of three or four weeks. We are moving away from that as part of our strategy. Residential is still really important, but we need to think about inclusion and the needs of young people, so we are moving to all year round. Our contracts were all set up as big residential contracts, but a global pandemic comes along that says that we cannot offer those residentials, particularly in 2020, although it carried on into 2021.
We had a couple of choices. The first was to say there was nothing we could do; those were our contracts, and there were elements of cost. Actually, I found a real willingness in government to say, “What could you do and what support do you need?” One of the things we could do, working with our great network, was to say that we were going to repurpose our contracts, and instead of residential see what we could do in schools and what support we could give. That rose to something called the skills booster, which is a curriculum delivered either by our network in schools or by schools when we were very concerned about COVID. That needed DCMS support to say, “Right, we believe in that. We think it’s the right thing to do, particularly at this moment in time, and we will liaise with Treasury and DfE”. That is a great example.
I believe that one of the roles that the trust should play as an arm’s-length body is doing more in partnership with others. One of the things in driving great growth and great impact that it forgot was its relationship with the youth sector, with the Local Government Association and with others. How do we provide that sort of scaffold and use our public body status to help others? It is a great example of DCMS thinking, “How can we flex and how can we support DfE?” We led, along with some great work with the Scouts and the Duke of Edinburgh, a round table on non-formal education recovery with DfE officials and DCMS officials. Although my home department is DCMS, the conversation was about how we support schools and how we support young people. Those are two examples of contracts and flex to cope, with a need while in our public status not to be unduly concerned by the box we are in but more about what we can do to support. Does that help?
Baroness Eaton: Very much, thank you.
Mark Gifford: Thank you.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Lord Blunkett, you have the next question, and you are turning the guns back on to Ofsted, I think.
Q18 Lord Blunkett: It is only in how the relationship works in testing out, particularly with your new directive, how that quality work is to be judged. If you are going to work more closely with schools, and I am very pleased that you are, and you get co-operation from the DfE, which was not historically forthcoming, your inspector element will have to inspect something, and I would like to know what it is.
Mark Gifford: That is a great question. You declared interests. I have to say that you were incredibly helpful and supportive, as I joined the trust, because of your knowledge.
At the moment, in terms of quality, we assure ourselves what is going on with contracts management. I come from a retail background, where we are very used to questions such as, “What is the data showing? What is the experience? What do your net promoter scores look like?”, and “What do your attrition scores look like?” The other questions are, “What is the longitudinal data?”, and, “What is the young person’s experience?” In that, we have not done as good a job as we could have done.
We are working out at the moment how to make that longitudinal data. That is also where the trust is more open to say that we know what the challenge is, but unlike in the past when we thought we knew where all the answers were, we do not, so we are commissioning work with great experts to look at what the quality of that experience looks like and how we might be able to measure it instantaneously and over time. What was the young person’s reaction? Did they attend? What was the reaction from the teachers? In six months or 12 months, are they still volunteering? Are they still building relationships with people they feel they are different from? Did they secure a job? How is their pay? That is some of the work that we are in market engagement with at the moment, with our new contracts and recommissioning.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Mr Russell, do you want to add anything?
Chris Russell: No, I do not think so. Thank you.
Q19 Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Could I raise one point? I have been to a couple of your award ceremonies. There was one in Telford. It is clear that you have a different audience if you are dealing with a city or a large town compared with a small town and country districts because of the nature of geographical dispersion. Clearly, those who came from the more urban areas found it a better experience than those who came from the more rural areas. Have you found a way to bridge that gap and deal with people who live in, essentially, a quite dispersed farming community?
Mark Gifford: The simple answer is no, because in a global pandemic we have not had many celebrations. If I think about what the new strategy looks like, celebrations came about because of the concept of the rite of passage: “I am moving away, I am learning new skills and I am recognised as something different”. That is really important as a spear to doing other things: “I now feel like I am a citizen”.
In COVID, what was interesting in doing smaller things was that it reflected better what was taking place in communities. We had metro mayors and 40 Members of Parliament visit over the summer. A part of our new submission that has been accepted is accreditation. Will what young people do be accredited so that they can use that on their CV when applying for jobs? Perhaps at some point it could itself be a qualification. It definitely has to be recognised, because that is important for the young person. Could it be through accreditation and what will the ceremonies look like? The big ceremonies will not occur; they will be smaller, and linked to political figures they know and trust. A great example is one we did with the English Football League. We did a great event with local sports people and the metro mayor in a sports club, and that felt absolutely right. Those young people carried on for over 12 months in 2021 volunteering and helping out in their community. That is all up for review.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Lord Collins, you have a question.
Lord Collins of Highbury: I thought we had rather exhausted it.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: You do not want to press further on that.
Lord Collins of Highbury: I do not. It was an Ofsted question.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Lord Blunkett, you had a question.
Q20 Lord Blunkett: I want to explore with Mr Gifford the idea of expanding NCS into being the conduit for other developments like the year of service. I declare an interest as the CIC has an interest in that as well as the broader issues.
Mark Gifford: For members of the panel who do not know, the UK year of service is a pilot funded by NCS Kickstart and delivered by the NCS Trust, with our great network. There are 70 organisations delivering it. Essentially, it is paid employment for young people doing jobs where they learn skills, but linked to civil society. We have young people working with charities. We have young people working in the care sector and in emergency services. It follows a concept that you might have seen globally, like AmeriCorps, and Service Civique in France.
What is fascinating about it is that the response from young people signing up has been incredible. At the moment, we have about 300 young people. When we advertised for some work associated with environmental places, 2,000 young people automatically applied. It is very early days, but some of the data that we are seeing is that we would normally have classed over 50% of those participants as NEETs—not in education, employment or training. The skills they are getting are great and they are entering the job market, which is great, but also what they are doing has a sense of service to society. It is really exciting.
What is also exciting is that businesses are benefiting from it. They can see an infrastructure of support that helps the young person in their job as well as their civic action, and then how that translates. We are working with people at the moment to try to get independent funding, because we think this is really important for society. It was one of the key recommendations in the Kruger report that the Government referenced when they did their response to that.
Q21 Lord Collins of Highbury: This is not in the script, so I am going off-script a bit. From previous evidence and from what you have been saying today—in a sense, the question can apply to you both—the pandemic has huge impacts and has taught us a lot of things, even in the way we operate here in the House of Lords. Some things are quite good and improve access. What impact do you think it has had on citizenship education and on volunteering? Are you spending time on how you can learn the lessons from the increase in volunteering during the pandemic?
Mark Gifford: That is a great question. Again, I come from a retail background. One of the things you are taught is to look at when there are changes in consumer behaviour and to see whether you can, to a certain extent, get ahead of the curve.
If we think of the trust perspective and exclude the pandemic, the needs and hopes of young people have changed. Advances in technology have changed. When the trust first started, things like TikTok and YouTube were in their infancy. Social media was not apparent. People only learned online in certain university institutions rather than anywhere else. Life has moved on.
The hopes and aspirations of young people have changed. We did some market research with YouthSight for thinking about our new strategy; 70% of young people believed they could contribute to building back better. They have the skills and the energy, and you saw that. In 2020, when we could not offer residentials, we asked young people who had signed up to the programme, “What can we help you with in your community?”, and we had 500,000 hours of volunteering in their community.
Hopes and aspirations have changed, as well as employability. We are hearing, “I might be confident at getting a job, but I am worried about it. I am worried whether I’ve got the skills to get the job”—the skills you learn outside the classroom. Advances in technology have changed. Government priorities and levelling up have all changed. In COVID, we said, “How can we experiment with that? What does it look like?” We have invested in digital, but there is a lot more we can do in that space, and I am very mindful of digital poverty. It is even putting things out there, particularly in 2020 and 2021, on keeping yourself resilient, and how to keep friendships going in lockdown. We were getting 1.3 million hits online. There is a lot we can do in that space.
We learned that perhaps residentials do not help young people. What does all year round look like? What do regular interventions look like? You need the big scaffold, but you need to work with organisations embedded in their community. One of the jobs that the trust did was to recognise that while it wanted to change—I came in as a change agent and to reduce costs—life had moved on, as had hopes and aspirations, digital aspirations and government. We have applied that. We will need to see what landed well and whether it has had longitudinal impact, and, if not, where we can course correct as we go along.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Baroness Barker, you had an idea for a question that builds on that. Do you want to take it any further, or are you content with what you have heard so far?
Q22 Baroness Barker: The NCS was built as a stand-alone entity with a remarkable degree of political backing. From what you say, there has been quite a considerable change. Much more consideration has been given to working with other parts of the voluntary sector, youth organisations and so on. In the citizenship and the collective action part of the agenda, what work has been put into developing relationships with local authorities and other public bodies to make sure that we are doing what I think was being hinted at in the responses to the education part, which was that you are trying to put citizenship into other entities rather than in a sealed-off box called citizenship?
Lord Blunkett: To add to that, perhaps you could say a word about the way you started to work with the civic journey concept which the Institute for Community Studies has developed as well. It follows on from what Baroness Barker asked.
Mark Gifford: Can I go back a stage slightly, just to put into context where our journey is? The trust was set up from a Parliament perspective. You are right about its growth pattern. One of the unintended consequences, I believe, was that it looked like a stand-alone programme, even though over 129 organisations deliver an NCS programme. It should be, and it is now, working better with others in the sector. It alienated some when it should have held out its hand and said, “Look, we have been set up by Parliament for continuity and for scale and reach to be a scaffold. What more can we do in partnership? Where is the sum of its whole?”
We are getting back to the vision. What was the intent of Parliament at the time, and where are those programmes? As a public body in receipt of public funds, where can we show leadership in supporting the sector and reaching out, and where can it help with the civic journey? What is fascinating on the civic journey programme, which is funded by Kickstart, is an academic piece of work on how we embed citizenship in it. What do we need to think about? There are formal processes, citizenship education, voluntary, democratic participation, activism and campaigning. Does that help? Does that embed it? Does that create the habit we want? How might we apply it? In my context, how might we apply that outside the classroom, and what influence might we have inside the classroom? It is also about working alongside people who are far cleverer and far better than me, two of whom spoke to you before and are sitting behind me at the moment, and thinking about how we embed it.
The other aspect goes to your point about local authorities. When the trust is doing something and setting itself up in a context where youth work believes that it has not been funded, and there is real evidence of that, it can look as though you are pitching and competing. One of the things we have had to do is really reach out. There are some local government associations that deliver NCS equally. We needed them, so in 2021, we proactively engaged. Who are the young people they are not seeing? Who are the hardest to reach? How can we target them? How can we use their expertise, our expertise and our providers’ expertise to draw in and attract them? Some of the demographics that we saw in 2021 translate to some of the challenge that the committee sets the trust around whether we can be more inclusive, and while remaining universal whether we can target.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Mr Russell, do you recognise the concept of the civic journey? Does that come across Ofsted’s bows at all?
Chris Russell: I think so. We would see that in our framework and the holistic picture of these areas, and that it is not just in a young person’s education and getting those academic and technical, or whatever it might be, elements right, but making that journey and developing the whole person. That is where we would see it, both in the specific judgment area where it has particularly nested itself and across the curriculum. Where we see education working well, those aspects are embedded across it, and they are seen in a holistic picture. The best schools do it in that way.
Q23 Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: One of the things that we found most infuriating and depressing was the lack of institutional memory as to what was happening in the sector. People would start initiatives. They would spend a bit of money on them. They might work. They might not work. Nobody said, “This is a bad idea. Let’s not do it again”. Nobody said, “This is a great idea. Let’s see how we can develop it”. It was a series of initiatives, like throwing a dart at a dartboard and nobody checking whether it hit the target or not. In the NCS and Ofsted, are we doing stuff to try to make sure we build on the best and find out what works and what does not?
Mark Gifford: First, as a plug for the NCS, the fact that it is a public body should provide an element of institutional history. You are not chopping and changing with new initiatives: “We didn’t like the NCS, so we’ll park it and create a new body”. That in itself should be done. We are also recognising that things change.
As I said, the residentials are really important to us, but four weeks in summer had perhaps reached its saturation point. How can you reinvent? There are still the golden threads. There are things on social mobility, social inclusion and social good. How do you reinvent those, which are really important, with longitudinal data but in a new context, in such a way that I hope in five years’ time we look back and say, “Things have changed again”? How did we keep the golden thread? How did we keep citizenship alive? Will we have another 600,000 young people who are volunteering, politically engaged, voting, et cetera? Data, with change and the golden thread, is key. As a public body, we might be one of the institutions that allows a historical perspective as well.
Chris Russell: I recognise some of the things that you said. Where we would sometimes see it at the level of an individual school and where, to some extent, we are trying to tackle it through our inspection work is in the school that does something for a while, does not carry it through and moves to something else; it has not thought whether it is the right thing to do, and it has not looked for impact. What we very much try to do in inspection is to see whether schools are doing that and not to see it as a good thing.
In terms of the framework, we want to see schools focusing on and really deciding what the right thing to do is, and then carrying that through and not flitting from one thing to another. There is a particular angle on the new framework to do with workload, because we sometimes see in schools that it can contribute to workload when a lot of activities are going on but not a lot is achieved. Being economical with the finite resources that are the teachers and so on in a school means really thinking about what is being done and the impact that will have on the young people, and then sticking with it. It is about looking for the impact and seeing the impact.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: Thank you both very much. I will hand back to Lord Gardiner.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your assistance in this session.