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Additional inspectors - the new Marmite?

Following your coverage of Ofsted's appearance at the select committee last week, I would like to reassure your readers about the quality and consistency of additional inspectors ("Use of private inspectors continues to rise despite performance doubts", January 14).

AIs, employed by the inspection service providers who carry out inspections on behalf of Ofsted, form an experienced and highly skilled workforce. Significant numbers are former HMIs.

In post-inspection surveys, headteachers consistently rate AI-led inspections as highly as they do those led by HMI, with 94 per cent saying they were satisfied with the way the inspection was carried out.

Your coverage states that the use of AIs is on the rise. Until 2005, it was rare for an Ofsted HMI to lead a routine school inspection. HMI now leads many of the most complex inspections, including 75 per cent of all secondary school inspections and 85 per cent of inspections of schools causing concern. HMI routinely quality assures AIs' work and checks the suitability of new inspectors before they lead inspections.

All inspectors receive comprehensive training and follow common inspection policy and guidance. This is published on the internet. Ofsted fully recognises that well-trained and highly qualified inspectors are essential in maintaining a robust, consistent inspection system.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty's chief inspector, London.

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