A simple appraisal is worthless

25th July 1997 at 01:00
If the chief inspector changes the seven-point scale of teaching quality into a three-point scale as part of a plan to weed out incompetent staff, the result will be towards even greater simplism and inaccuracy than hitherto.

I lament Chris Woodhead's inability to look for proper measures of teacher performance and to look in the right places. For many years, university schools of education and other initial teacher-training institutions have employed performance indicators which have since evolved to meet changing requirements and fresh insights. Kingston University's clear, yet sophisticated, system is but one example.

The system focuses upon five indicators: * curriculum planning, application and assessment; * evaluation; * class management; * relationships and professional roles, and * personal and professional qualities.

Each dimension embraces a range of performance criteria. At present there are 35.

Unless an inspection lasts long enough to provide accurate data on such specific criteria, it cannot appraise professional competence, much less offer practical feedback.

It is, therefore, clear that flying visits by the Office for Standards in Education ignore the high standards of appraisal required. A specialised, expert and neutral body, as Her Majesty's Inspectorate was, must develop and employ measures of quality in teaching.

To be praised or damned on such criteria will count for something. To be appraised as excellent on an ofsted scale will, as now, give nothing but false comfort.

Dr MIKE NEWBY

Educational consultant and associate lecturer Kingston University 38 Common Road Redhill Surrey

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