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Satellite shows Ofsted the way

They may drive schools mad. They may drive teachers round the bend. But one thing Ofsted inspectors will no longer be doing is driving round in circles.

The schools' inspectorate has announced that all staff who regularly use a car for their work will get a free satellite navigation system to help them find their way to the school gates.

Inspectors will be given the TomTom One, with built-in global positioning system. The pound;280 driver's toy was unequivocally praised by T3 gadget magazine this month: "There simply isn't a better budget sat-nav." It comes with a 9cm screen, on which three-dimensional maps are displayed. Focused inspectors whose eyes are firmly on the road will also benefit from a voice function, which gives directions.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: "All of Ofsted's inspectors are home-based, and many regularly travel outside of their local area, to inspect nurseries, childminders and schools. The system will enable them to use their time more effectively."

But the new gadget could also highlight failings among Ofsted staff. Last year, inspectors said geography was the worst-taught subject in primaries, with pupils doing well in the subject in only one-third of schools inspected between September 2003 and April 2005.

Ofsted denies that inspectors' reliance on computerised map-reading reveals poorer geographical skills than the average 11-year-old. And David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, says that Ofsted's investment in sat-navs demonstrates that the organisation recognises the value of geographical resources.

"This confirms what we know: that geography underpins everything," he said.

"Without geography, you're nowhere. You're lost.

"But I hope Ofsted inspectors have a decent grounding in the subject.

Otherwise sat-nav can all go very wrong, and they could still be driving around in circles. Though I'm sure many teachers would be very pleased."

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