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OU inspection 'misunderstood'

THE recent letter from Heidi England (TES, October 23) about the Office for Standards in Education's inspection of the Open University's primary postgraduate certificate in education course is based on a number of misunderstandings about the nature of the inspection process.

The inspection was confined to the OU's primary provision in England. Presumably Ms England followed the course offered in Northern Ireland, which was not covered by the inspection and which operates under different conditions.

The inspectors' judgments were not based on 2.6 per cent of the weakest trainees, as Ms England suggests, but on a stratified and representative sample of 14 trainees drawn from the OU's own assessments of the trainees' teaching standards. This sample (5 per cent rather than the 2.6 per cent quoted) included trainees of all levels, including those whom the OU considered to be good and very good. OFSTED did not observe any of the OU's weakest trainees (any trainees considered to be unlikely to received qualified teacher status are specifically excluded from the sample in all teacher-training inspections). What we did ask to see was a sample of trainees who were among the weakest of those whom the OU considered likely to pass the course.

By no means all of the trainees observed were poor teachers, and some high-quality teaching was seen. However, the report highlights some specific areas of weakness. The OU has already recognised that the course needs revision and it has, sensibly, withdrawn from teacher training while it adjusts its provision.

Jonathan Lawson

Head of media relations

Office for Standards in Education

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