Inspection commission rejected

CALLS from academics for a Royal Commission on the work of the Office for Standards in Education have been rejected by an all-party committee of MPs.

The Education and Skills committee, in its report on the work of OFSTED published this week, said: "We would welcome stringent external evaluation of the soundness of OFSTED's methods, but we are not persuaded that a Royal Commission is needed."

The statement comes after 18 professors, led by Carol Fitz-Gibbon of the University of Durham, urged the select committee to consider the move. The call was also taken up by the Standing Committee for the Education and Training of Teachers.

In a memorandum, the professors called for a Royal Commission to consider "the extent to which the judgments are fair and accurate" and "the value for money represented by OFSTED inspections".

Professor Fitz-Gibbon said that the decision was "disappointing" but said:

"I welcome the idea that they will do something and acknowledge that this is needed. We will have to wait and see what methods the evaluation adopts."

Committee chairman Barry Sheerman said the committee would continue to be the primary method of scrutinising OFSTED. The report praised the "welcome difference in tone" brought by the chief inspector Mr Tomlinson, but said:

"We are concerned that teachers find OFSTED inspections to be overly stressful."

And it expressed concern about smoking and smacking by childminders, asking OFSTED to report on both issues by December 2003.

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