Blunkett inspection crisis claim denied

Linda Blackburne

The Office for Standards in Education this week denied Labour party claims that its primary and special school inspection service was in crisis, writes Linda Blackburne.

Labour education spokesman David Blunkett claimed the system was failing, with nearly a quarter of planned inspections for primary schools and nearly half of those scheduled for special schools cancelled in 1994-95, its first year.

"Inspections should play a vital role in raising standards. It is unacceptable that some primary schools are going to have to wait years before their inspections. The original policy of sidelining HMI and of relying on privatised inspectors is clearly not working," he said.

OFSTED set a target of 3,369 primary schools for 1994-95 but actually inspected 2,395, according to figures produced after a parliamentary question from Labour MP Stephen Byers. A total of 188 special schools - not 155 as OFSTED mistakenly told the Labour party in a letter dated July 28 - were inspected instead of the 305 it targeted.

The remaining inspections for special schools and primaries would take place in the planned four-year cycle up to 1998, said an OFSTED spokeswoman. The shortfall of independent inspectors in the primary and special school sectors would be made up by Her Majesty's Inspectorate and additional new inspectors.

* Sex education has been included in the new framework for school inspection, it emerged this week.

The Sex Education Forum and Lord Kilmarnock, chairman of the parliamentary all-party group on Aids, criticised the draft framework in March because not a word about sex education appeared in it, even though the subject became compulsory in schools last September.

The new framework will not be published until mid-October, but OFSTED has already told the Sex Education Forum that sex education has been included.

OFSTED says health and sex education and drugs prevention have been "fully accommodated" within a section headed "The Curriculum and Assessment".

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