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Colleges pass third judging

Controversial follow-up inspections have cleared four primary teacher-training courses, reports Nicolas Barnard

Four primary teacher-training courses which failed controversial follow-up inspections have each been passed after a third visit by the Office for Standards in Education.

Derby, Durham and Warwick universities and Bath College of Higher Education were the first to be failed in the primary follow-up survey despite earning good grades the first time around.

Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector, ordered a reinspection of all primary initial teacher-training courses because he believed the first round of inspections had painted too rosy a picture.

The follow-up focused more closely on students' training in literacy and numeracy teaching. But it provoked concern at the way inspections were carried out and claims that the future of some courses could hinge on a difference of opinion between trainers and inspectors on the quality of a handful of students.

All four institutions were failed on the way they assessed trainees.

Derby was threatened with losing its Teacher Training Agency accreditation - a move which would have meant the primary course's closure. Durham complained it was inspected as it moved from a four-year to three-year course and had twice its usual number of final-year students, many placed at schools it did not normally use. Warwick also protested to OFSTED.

The latest inspections have given Durham and Warwick grade 2s (good with no significant weaknesses) across the board and Bath and Derby a mix of grades 2 and 3 (adequate but requiring significant improvement).

Universities were reluctant to reopen old wounds. A spokesman at Warwick said simply: "The reinspection has given 2s across the board and that speaks volumes."

But some bitterness remains. The TES understands one institution believes it has lost out by being unable to expand numbers in the wake of the second inspection.

Mary Russell, chief executive of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, said the process had been rushed. "People felt the goalposts were being moved, nobody was really clear what was supposed to be going on and there was unnecessary upset," she said. Some universities might have needed to be frightened into tightening up assessment ("though I wouldn't have thought those four were among them") but overall it had not done much good.

All 80 primary providers have now been reinspected, but only the first 20 reports - including the four which failed - have been published. OFSTED will not say if any of the remaining 60 had failed.

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