Dubious data?

23rd February 1996 at 00:00
I read the article on the Office for Standards in Education report, and the profile of chief inspector Chris Woodhead with great interest.

The point already seems to have been made that there is a danger that the "independence" of the inspectorate may be compromised by the way in which Chris Woodhead seems to align himself with the political far Right. Chris Woodhead, perhaps justly, quotes Eric Bolton and retorts: "What independence?" Quite. But in this there is a much more serious issue, which Peter Coles, Hampshire's chief education officer, rightly touches on. That 15,000 incompetent teachers have not been identified, but inferred from the number of unsatisfactory lessons, is a very important point - but not one that makes headlines, any more than asking how valid is such a procedure?

This leads to the crux: it matters less whether Chris Woodhead is right or wrong in his opinion than whether those opinions - and those of the organisation he represents - are perceived to be politicised.

For if they are perceived to be politicised then the corollary is that they will not only be rejected, but the information base on which they are built will be suspected. Put another way: chief inspectors' reports were contestable sometimes on the arguments used about the data, but the validity of the data itself was respected. Now, as a result of politicisation, data too will be queried and the conclusions based on them rejected.

JAMES SALE Associate management consultant Centrestruct Bournemouth, Dorset

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