Failing primaries? Data to blame

14th May 2010 at 01:00

It is highly unlikely that a third of primary schools are failing, unless we are given independent evidence of the validity of the criteria used by the World Class Primary Programme ("A third of primaries are 'failing'", May 7).

When I was an Ofsted registered inspector, many of us complained that the (then) chief inspector Chris Woodhead was unnerving a great majority of good teachers by his public insistence that inspection targeted failing teachers. In fact only 4 per cent of teachers could be regarded as unfit for the job.

That was not to say that teachers could not improve, but the potential of the inspection system to achieve such improvement has been lost.

Before Ofsted existed, Her Majesty's Inspectors would identify what actually worked. But the entire edifice of national accountability has shifted to data-led indigestion, misdiagnosis, nonsensical statistics, ill-considered judgment, petty condemnation and ever greater fear in schools, classrooms and homes.

The people who most know what is happening in schools are the staff, families and local communities and every survey of public attitudes has tended to rate children's well-being above even academic attainment.

Mervyn Benford, Information officer, National Association for Small Schools.

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