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Beware the sham Ofsted inspectors

The Office for Standards in Education is considering legal action against a copy-cat company in Portugal which is attempting to trade under its name.

British schools in Europe have been inundated with e-mails offering them Ofsted's approval for (1,000 per year. For this they are promised a certificate to show prospective parents.

On its website, www.ofsted.net, the Organisation for Standards in Education admits it has no links with the UK version. But that does not stop it saying: "Our Ofsted short inspection system is a straightforward way to be inspected to reassure parents and to help in marketing. Even if your Ofsted certificate brings in just one more pupil it will have paid for itself."

Anne McEwan de Farre, president of the National Association of British Schools in Spain which has 42 members, has been receiving weekly e-mails from the Portuguese Ofsted since November.

"This is unethical and an insult to the profession. It is an attempt to deceive parents rather than reassure them," she said.

A spokeswoman for the real Ofsted said: "Our lawyers have written to the company requesting they stop calling themselves Ofsted and remove all references to Ofsted from their marketing materials. Ofsted is considering what further action may be taken should they fail to comply.

"Ofsted are grateful to The TES for making their readers aware of this. We encourage everyone to use the Government website: www.ofsted.gov.uk."

A spokesperson for the Portuguese Ofsted said: "We are a bona fide education business. Our homepage says: 'We are independent, and not connected to the British Government's Ofsted.' What part of this short sentence does the Office for Standards in Education not understand?"

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