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The old ways were thorough

Parent-governor Catherine Ashton regrets the lack of "inspectors visiting over time" yet would not advocate "a return to the old HM Inspectorate system".

Perhaps she is not aware that under the old inspectorate, every school and college had an assigned general inspector who, in theory if not in practice, gained a degree of familiarity with the institution. Then in the event of a full inspection the general inspector was better equipped to brief his team of inspectors, many of whom already have made previous visits in the course of their professional assignments.

Two other arrangements substantiated the inspectors' knowledge. First they worked regularly in district teams. Second, through their own network they would build up their understanding of what was happening both regionally and nationally in education. On this basis they gave advice both to education authorities and to the government of the day.

Additionally, in the best HMI operations, inspectors regularly shared their opinions with teachers and openly discussed their criteria for assessment.

I suspect that many Office for Standards in Education inspectors themselves will agree with my comments, as will former HMI colleagues who still care about education.

KENNETH HASTING Retired HM Inspector Grove Park Ely, Cambridgeshire

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