Tellus to clear off

There’s quite a furore over the latest Ofsted ‘Tellus’ survey:

Parents expressed their anger after discovering that Ofsted is asking children as young as 10 personal questions about their home life.

About 120,000 pupils have already been questioned on how often they get drunk or smoke, and whether their mothers are in paid work – for an online survey.

Ofsted has told schools they do not need to ask parents’ permission before pupils complete the survey, which will create a national database to be used by 145 English councils.

The survey was first carried out 2 years ago, when it was designed simply to elicit the views of children about their school and the quality of leisure provision in their area. It contained 14 straightforward questions and seemed a pretty sensible ‘horse’s mouth’ strategy to us.

This time, ‘Tellus2’ asks 39 questions and tips over from asking for children’s views to asking for their personal data as well. Did someone just say ‘function creep’?

Why are they doing this? The BBC has got it right:

The inspection watchdog said the results of its Tellus2 survey – covering home life, health and bullying – would be used to help local authorities assess their success in meeting the needs of children and young people.

Ah. It’s back to the ‘Outcomes Framework’ – those 26 Public Service Agreement Targets and 13 ‘Key Indicators’ that have been imposed upon local authorities by the government’s ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda. We always wondered how on earth they would actually manage to measure how many children were meeting the fruit’n’veg’, smoking prevention and working mother targets.

If schools and parents are angry now, we must warn that things can only get worse: LAs are planning to issue their own surveys in order to gather performance-indicator data, on top of the information already gathered by ‘Tellus2’. The Q & A sheet on the Ofsted ‘Tellus’ site contains this:

Q4. This is going to overlap with LA’s own surveys. Should we run separate surveys or can Local Authorities add their own questions to the national one?

A4. We are aware that some local authorities already have plans in place to run their own surveys of children and young people in schools this year. We sincerely regret instances where there has not been enough notice given to prevent overlap between any such surveys and Tellus2. For this year there will be no provision for LAs to add their own questions to Tellus2 or to run the survey more widely. However, we are actively considering whether the survey could be expanded next year to incorporate such options.

If the NUT is worried by ‘Tellus’, then it’s to be hoped that they will be as opposed to LA surveys as they are to this Ofsted offering. LAs will then have to work out how to collect their wretched perfomance data by other means – or accept that it’s none of their damned business anyway.

Alternatively, children will soon get questionnaire-fatigue and make up the answers. So long as the results show an upward trend, it seems unlikely that LAs will object. They will keep the government off their backs, children will maintain their privacy, and the government will have lots of statistics to show how their policy has improved children’s lives. If you exclude the bamboozled electorate and the council-taxpayers who foot the bill, it’s a win-win situation.

NB the easiest way to find copies of the questionnaires is to Google (sorry) “Tellus survey” and “Tellus2 survey”


2 Responses to Tellus to clear off

  1. […] already had the Ofsted ‘Tellus2′ survey in June asking children a great many questions about their habits and home life, and now a […]

  2. […] ago, a great deal of fury was expressed at the intrusiveness of Ofsted’s ‘TellUs’ surveys. At the time, we said: If schools and parents are angry now, we must warn that things can only get worse: LAs are […]

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