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Doubts over primary training 'hit list'

Teacher trainers remain deeply suspicious about the re-inspection of primary teacher training by the Office for Standards in Education, which has now begun.

Documents and guidance about the inspections have been sent out - but only to the 20 institutions originally on OFSTED's "hit list". In the autumn, chief inspector Chris Woodhead deflected protests about victimisation from the 20 by announcing that all 68 providers of primary teacher training would be revisited. OFSTED still insists that all will be revisited over the next two years.

Mr Woodhead ordered the "follow-up inspection" in the summer after deciding the original inspections had not paid enough attention to how students were being taught to teach reading. He also recruited headteachers as additional inspectors on to the inspection teams, in the hope that they would contribute a realistic view of what schools require from teacher training.

One college principal, who would not be named for fear of prejudicing the inspection, said: "We suspect that Woodhead only intends to target the 20 on the original list. He will say he's doing all of them and then call a halt claiming that resources have run out."

Institutions that have received the inspection documents claim that they designed to ensure that the training courses receive poorer marks than they did in the primary sweep last year. At the University of East London, Georgina Dinneen, co-ordinator of teacher education, said: "Reading is being reduced to a number of sub-skills, and its the same with number; there's no holistic notion of what it is to be mathematically literate, it's a reductionist approach."

The University of East London was given "good" grades for all four of the areas inspected last year. "Now, we can only go down."

The London Institute of Education, which was given top grades in the original inspection, is refusing to co-operate with the re-inspection. Peter Mortimore, the director, said "If OFSTED are really going to do everyone again over two years, we've asked to be done in the second year. It's utterly unreasonable for us to be asked to go through the whole process again when our report was only published just before Christmas."

Barbara McGilchrist, dean of initial teacher education at the institute, said that the inspection instruments appeared to be designed to record failure against an impossible ideal: "Grading a student against what you would expect of a very experienced teacher is bound to result in failure. The gradings for this inspection will reflect that and for us the only place to go is down. "

Another issue that continues to worry the teacher trainers is how the gradings they get in the follow-up will be used - in particular, whether they will affect accreditation of the course and the amount of money they get from the Teacher Training Agency. Although the inspections have started, the TTA board only decided on Wednesday that the new gradings would affect funding - but only when OFSTED has inspected all the courses.

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