'Constant scrutiny' threat to quality

22nd January 1999 at 00:00
The quality of OFSTED's work came under fire this week but MPs were told its efforts are supported by the majority of teachers

TEACHER-training institutions will continue to be inspected intensively because the Government wants to ensure students are acquiring adequate skills, MPs on the Commons education selection committee were told this week.

Dr Peter Knight, vice-chancellor of the University of Central England in Birmingham, and a member of the Teacher Training Agency's board, said the colleges with the poorest grades would be inspected first in the next round.

In his appearance before MPs reviewing the work of the Office for Standards in Education, Dr Knight said he rated the inspection regime for teacher training more highly than any other in higher education.

However, Professor Jim Campbell, head of the department of education at Warwick University, said he was concerned at the reliability of the inspection methods used. The success of an institution in terms of funding and the employment prospects of students depended on its OFSTED report.

Within the colleges, there was a suspicion, fuelled by statements from Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector, that there is an agenda to move as much initial teacher training as possible out of higher education. Professor Campbell suggested research was needed to discover whether there was a link between the grades given to training courses and the effectiveness of teachers in their first year in the classroom. The survey conducted by Warwick appeared to show there was no such link.

Further fears about the system were expressed by John Townshend, a former HMI for initial teacher training. He told MPs that the pressure for compliance from the centre meant there was a danger of losing the best things about the system.

Constant scrutiny from OFSTED was not the way to attract good quality applicants, he said.

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