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Don't undervalue the lay inspectors

I would like to respond to some points raised in Josephine Gardiner's article of December 27 ("Lay inspector teams' insult to profession").

As stated in the article, registered inspectors (RegIs) are in charge of inspections. In other words, they manage them. Many lay inspectors (LIs) have extensive managerial expertise gained from working in a wide variety of situations that would stand them in good stead for managing a team of, at the maximum, 15 to 16 inspectors. Some are already taking the role of "second in command" on inspections.

Inspection reports are produced by the whole inspection team working together in order to reach corporate judgments on a school's quality of education, educational standards, efficiency and the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of its pupils. They are not written by the RegI, who contributes hisher own sections and edits the submissions of team members in order to produce a cohesive document.

LIs already frequently attend, and contribute to, the report back to governors. Their unique role, with no subject responsibility, enables them to gain an overall view of the school and to weigh up evidence in an unbiased and clear-sighted manner. Many of the governors to whom they report back are lay people with a similar interest in, and commitment to, education as LIs; many LIs are also governors.

The RegI's three roles as depicted in the article are well within the capabilities of an experienced LI to perform.

Few LIs would wish to become RegIs. Most take part in only a few inspections a year, which are fitted around their other jobs. There are, however, those who make it a full-time occupation and have completed more than 60 inspections, many more than most team members.

Those who would like some career progression would, like every other RegI, be trained, assessed and rigorously monitored in order to ensure that they were up to the job and would depend upon the expertise of all other team members in order to produce a report that could help the school to move forward. In no way would a team led by an LI RegI be compromised or unprofessional.

LIs are full members of inspection teams and should have similar opportunities open to them as to other members. When their inclusion in teams was first suggested before the 1992 Act, it was agreed with much scepticism, but the headteachers of many schools that have been inspected have found that the LI has been the member of the team who has really got to the heart of the school.

Surely this is an ideal person to lead an inspection team?

SARAH DRAKE

Chairwoman Association of Lay Inspectors 8 Craddock Road Brooklands Sale Cheshire

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