Smiling face shows satisfied customer

CHILDREN as young as three will be invited to fill in report forms for school inspectors by ticking boxes for smiling or frowning faces.

The Office for Standards in Education is to pilot two types of pre-inspection questionnaire next term, one for secondaries and one for primaries.

The secondary forms will be aimed at pupils aged 11 or older. The primary ones need to be accessible to three-year-olds as some primaries have nurseries attached.

An OFSTED spokeswoman said it was too early to say what the questions would be. Primary pupils would be asked to tick happy, straight or unhappy faces to show their response.

"It's a simple way for young ones to indicate what they think," she said. "They might have an adult sitting next to them to help read out the question, and they can choose if they are happy or not so happy. The forms will not be obligatory, and will only play a small part in the inspection process."

Nine schools will take part in the pilot and the results will be analysed in mid-October.

Governing bodies will be able to decide if they want to use the OFSTED questionnaires, no questionaires or ones they have devised.

However, Maggie Smith, early-years director of OFSTED, said she supported the idea of nursery-age children gaining a greater voice in the inspection process.

David Bell, chief inspector, said that any inspection team "worth their salt" already quizzes pupils carefully about their schools.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers is urging its members to advise school governing bodies against the forms.

Chris Keates, NASUWT deputy general secretary, said: "We would be very concerned if the questionnaires in any way led to adverse or negative comments about teachers. It has not worked too badly in the sixth-form college sector, but that involves much older pupils.

"Inspections already cause incredible anxiety and this kind of examination is going to put more pressure on teachers."

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