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OFSTIN doubts

I read with interest (TES, May 3) your article announcing the formation of a group known as the Office for Standards in Inspection (OFSTIN) to be chaired by Professor Carol Fitzgibbon of Durham University. As OFSTED's largest contractor, we have written to Professor Fitzgibbon suggesting that she might like a dialogue with us and could find it useful to invite us to OFSTIN's June conference.

I have no doubt that, if OFSTIN looks hard enough, it will be able to provide sufficient examples to justify its claim that the inspection system is flawed. Any process that requires people to observe and judge against publicly available criteria will inevitably involve a degree of subjectivity. The issue OFSTIN will presumably focus on is whether this subjectivity is so great as to render the system invalid.

We do not believe it is. The present system, with all its acknowledged faults, is a quantum leap forward when compared to the old HM Inspectorate system or the various local authority systems.

The inspection system used by contractors is open, fair, transparent and in the public domain - more than could be said of the systems it replaced. Importantly, at no time since the system started in September 1993 has OFSTED sought to influence us in any way or brought pressure to bear to shape our reports or conclusions.

Although we did not entirely accept its conclusions on class sizes, it is difficult to think of any major OFSTED findings released since 1993 which differ markedly from our own conclusions, based on the evidence of getting on for 600 inspections. I'm unconvinced, at the moment, that OFSTIN is either open- or even-handed. Our offer of dialogue is an attempt to ensure we don't have another group that has the undermining of OFSTED at the top of its list,

JOHN HASLETT Director of UK Operations Inspection division Centre for British Teachers 1 The Chambers East Street, Reading

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