Minister reviews inspection cycle

Frances Rafferty

The Government is considering scrapping its four-year cycle of inspections for schools which receive good Office for Standards in Education reports.

Education junior minister Robin Squire told a conference organised by the Secondary Heads Association, that the Department for Education and Employment is considering, focusing on weaker schools once the present cycle of full inspections is over. He said: "Apart from the expense, does it make quite as much sense to return four years later to a school that has had a successful report as it does to one that has not?" Mr Squire is considering a number of options, including less frequent inspections for good schools and the introduction of two types of inspection, one full and one with a lighter touch. He is thought to favour the first option.

He said it was more important to concentrate resources on schools that were not successful, admitting that this would thrust a school which required more frequent inspection into the public eye.

From next April all schools can apply for Grants for Education Support and Training money earmarked for post-inspection work.

A school which has passed its OFSTED inspection with flying colours will therefore, the minister proposes, no longer require another inspection four years later unless, for example, it has a new head or has changed status.

Two weeks ago The TES reported that Chris Woodhead, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, was considering a system under which the weakest schools would be inspected every two years, and the rest every six.

Parliamentary statistics show that OFSTED was 1,000 schools short of its 3,369 target for primary schools last year, and that it only visited 188 special schools out of the planned 305. However, it expects to meet its primary target of 5,000 schools for 1995-96.

A change in the inspection cycle would require secondary legislation, rather than a full-scale Bill.

John Dunford, president of SHA, welcomed the proposal. "We prefer schools to be involved in self-evaluation and self-inspection and suggest that a school is monitored every eight to 10 years."

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