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New model inspections

The NAHT has proposed a kinder system for school assessments. Amanda Kelly reports THE largest headteachers' union has unveiled a new model for school inspection which it claims should replace the "destructive and demeaning" system spearheaded by outgoing OFSTED chief Chris Woodhead.

With Mr Woodhead announcing his resignation earlier this month, the National Association of Head Teachers believes the time is right for the Government to introduce a reformed system that would concentrate on celebrating success, as well as delivering constructive criticism, and give schools the lead in setting their own improvement agenda.

The union has presented Education Secretary David Blunkett with a document outlining a provisional alternative in which inspection findings would not be made public until a year later, when a member of Her Majesty's Inspectorate returned to the school to check progress.

Phase one of the proposed four-stage process would involve a visit from a "review team", possibly consisting of current OFSTED inspectors, who would work with the school to carry out an internal review establishing its strengths and weaknesses.

The review team, who would need to have recent classroom experience, would also collaborate with an accredited local adviser who had a thorough knowledge of the school and could help implement any recommendations for improvement.

In phase two of the process, the review team would produce a report that would be couched in practical "can do" terms rather than the "emotive" language sometimes associated with current OFSTED reports. Such a report would be disseminated to staff, governors and parents only and not to the press.

It would include sections containing the team's inital findings, recommendations for development, a note of whether the school had already identified the problem in its development plan, and a priority indicator as to the urgency of the issue.

The review would be carried out by fewer inspectors over a shorter period of time, and the money saved would be allocated to helping schools put in place any recommendations. Extra funding should also be set aside by the Government to make up for any shortfall.

Each report would recommend the size of grant needed to provide the necessary financial support for improvement and would also identify other sources of guidance and good practice.

The school would be given a year to implement any mechanisms for improvement before being visited by a member of HMI, whose progress report would then be made public.

As with the present system, the NAHT's model would require schools to go through the inspection cycle every six years. The union concludes that such a system would provide a more positive way to describe the situation in schools.

REFORMING OFSTED

Key features of the NAHT's proposed model for inspection include...

* Initial visit from review team who work with school to identify areas for improvement.

* Number of inspectors and period of inspection greatly reduced to produce financial savings that can be passed back to schools.

* All inspectors to have recent classroom experience.

* Review team's report made available only to staff, governors and parents - not to the press.

* Schools given one year to put in place suggested mechanisms for improvement.

* Her Majesty's Inspectors visit school and report on its progress in identified areas. Their findings are made public.

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