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Failure provides 'an opportunity'

Chief inspector says inspection failure can benefit pupils. Jon Slater reports

A sharp rise in the number of failing schools should be seen as an opportunity as well as a problem, chief inspector David Bell will say next week.

Mr Bell is expected to use his annual report, published on Wednesday, to highlight the success of schools which move out of special measures and the difference their improvements make to pupils' lives.

As The TES revealed earlier this month, the number of schools in England failing an Office for Standards in Education inspection rose from 129 in 20012 to 160 last year.

Mr Bell will attempt to allay the fears of critics who believe that this will do more harm than good. Failing an inspection can act as a catalyst to improvement and this outweighs the negative effects suffered by the school, he will argue.

Teaching unions and opponents of Ofsted say that labelling a school as a failure demoralises staff and pupils and ensures that parents send their children elsewhere.

The increase in school inspection failures will be seized on by opposition parties as fresh evidence that the Government's drive to raise school standards has stalled.

But ministers can point to figures showing that the total number of schools in trouble has fallen. There were 445 schools in special measures or with serious weaknesses at the end of 20023, compared to 473 a year earlier.

The annual report is the first part of a busy two weeks for the chief inspector.

The following week Mr Bell will publish a report setting out a new light-touch inspection framework for schools.

Schools will face shorter, sharper, more frequent inspections and will be required to carry out more rigorous self-evaluation.

The new framework follows concerns raised by schools about the current inspection arrangements, introduced in September, which have led to a 35 per cent increase in the number of schools judged to be failing. These figures are not included in the annual report.

A report published by Ofsted this week says that teachers who gain postgraduate qualifications are a "real asset" to their schools.

Inspectors found that these teachers help bring about significant improvements in pupils' work, curriculum planning and target-setting.

Mr Bell said that support of colleagues was vital to allow schools to reap the benefits.

Some teachers failed to make good use of their training because they were given insufficient time to complete their studies, lacked the support of senior management or because colleagues were reluctant to change established attitudes and practices, he said.

Ofsted is looking for a new director of education to replace David Taylor who retires in April to pursue a career as an education consultant. The salary for the post will be around pound;100,000.

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