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Officials accused of cover-up

ACADEMICS have questioned the legitimacy of one of the Teacher Training Agency's biggest consultation exercises, claiming that criticisms were deliberately watered down by officials.

Ian Hextall and Pat Mahoney of the University of Surrey, Roehampton, scrutinised hundreds of documents generated by the 1997 consultation into the new Standards for the Award of Qualified Teacher status. The consultation included seven regional conferences.

In a study to be published in the British Educational Research Journal in June, the researchers claim:

The report of the consultation was redrafted several times by TTA officers. One admitted, in a note to a colleague, having "toned down" the text by removing some words from the original version.

A consultant who helped to prepare the original report said that 12 points had been added whose "provenance was unclear", almost all of which were favour able to the TTA.

Officials systematcally re-placed "criticism" with "comment" in the re drafted report.

The agency claimed a "very small minority" had disagreed in principle with the proposals - without saying that objectors included significant bodies such as the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals and the Association of University Teachers.

The researchers conclude: "It is perhaps legitimate to ask what the time, energy and expense of the consultation actually achieved, whether the public money expended can be justified and whether an unelected, unrepresentative body such as the TTA is best-placed to develop standards for teachers."

Ralph Tabberer, who took over as chief executive of the TTA this month, said:

"I have not seen the study and would like to meet the authors to look at their evidence. Knowing the agency's integrity, I am surprised that anyone is questioning the consultation."

Research Focus, 26

Warwick Mansell

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