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Concern about quality in the independent sector

David Jamieson MP is right to be concerned that schools on the list of the Service Children's Education Authority (SCEA) should be of good quality (TES, April 12) and I suspect that there is common ground between him and those of us involved in the accreditation and inspection of independent schools. There is an important distinction between schools which, through their membership of one of the five constituent associations, are under the Independent Schools Joint Council and those which are not.

As reported in your article, some 60 per cent of the independent schools in the UK are in the ISJC; it was not, however, made clear that those not in membership, although numerous, are small. ISJC schools educate 80 per cent or more of the independent school pupil population, and they are all regularly inspected. Inspection teams working for the ISJC's accreditation, review and consultancy service are all led by former HM inspectors of very wide experience and with no loyalties which might cloud their judgment; the pattern of the inspection is based on Office for Standards in Education practice and works as a parallel system, but with one important addition. The developmental role played by the associations after and between inspections is a valuable part of the ISJC system and ensures that recommendations are chased up, any matters of concern addressed and where necessary support and training offered. On occasion, schools do not come up to the mark and are expelled from an association and so ISJC.

The ARCS would be pleased to co-operate with the SCEA. Our reports are already sent to OFSTED and we would gladly make them available, where applicable, to the SCEA.

AVERIL BURGESS

Chairman

Accreditation Review and Consultancy Service

Independent Schools Joint Council

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