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OFSTED's 'mythical' flaws seem real to us

CHIEF inspector Mike Tomlinson ("We're really not that cruel", TES, February 2) suggests the Office for Standards in Education's shortcomings are mythical.

As a local branch of the National Union of Teachers we take a number of complaints about OFSTED. Common ones have been: "They didn't read any of the material they'd asked for"; "They took one parental complaint and pursued it with the zeal of the Spanish Inquisition"; and, perhaps most damning, "teachers cannot believe the inspection failed to find shortcomings which staff have been aware of for months or even years".

It is the culture that is wrong. There is an assumption that before OFSTED, schools were not visited by exteral agencies. The advisory service carried out this function. The difference was that when the adviser arrived, the staff would parade their skeletons in the hope that the adviser could help. Today OFSTED arrives and skeletons are locked firmly in the cupboard.

Schools need to be externally monitored, but as part of supporting hard-edged self-evaluation.

As one experienced teacher told me: "I have been on the receiving end of four inspections in seven years. Not one has helped the school move forward or me to develop as a teacher". Isn't that a dreadful indictment, Mr T?

Campbell Russell Secretary, Cheshire division National Union Of Teachers Whipcord Lane Chester

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