Diane Hofkins reports on OFSTED's latest attempt to meet its primary-school inspection deadlines. The Office for Standards in Education is recruiting primary and special school heads and deputies for 12-month secondments as full-time inspectors.
The move is part of OFSTED's drive to overcome the shortage of inspectors in these sectors, but is also seen as a professional development opportunity for participants and their schools.
OFSTED came under extra pressure to meet the four-year inspection cycle when Gillian Shephard, the Education Secretary, emphasised its importance during her speech to the North of England conference in January.
The scheme should produce a batch of new registered inspectors, who lead the independent inspection teams. OFSTED's problem to date has been that the RIs trained so far have not bid for enough primary and special school contracts.
A classified advert in The TES today invites "suitably qualified individuals to work with HMI as additional inspectors on OFSTED's primary and special school inspection programme".
Up to 100 posts will be offered either as secondments or as fixed-term contracts (for those who have retired), and the experience and training could be a step towards a higher degree. Candidates shortlisted for the scheme, which starts in September, would undergo a training and assessment course next month. "Selection will offer the opportunity of team member accreditation initially with the possibility of registered inspector status," says the advert.
OFSTED will probably create teams of the new additional inspectors (AIs), mentored and led by HMIs, says Jim Rose, director of inspections at OFSTED. The scheme will also open up opportunities for lay inspectors, who have complained that they are not getting enough work, because the new AI teams will need them, he added.
Successful candidates will be expected to have recent teaching experience, a "sound knowledge of either primary or special education" and "a substantial experience of school organisation and management". OFSTED believes this recruitment of heads and deputies could help answer criticisms that many inspectors visiting primaries have little experience of them. It will bring new blood to OFSTED and provide high-quality in-service training as well as the opportunity for future inspection work for heads and deputies, said a spokeswoman.
Jim Rose argues that visiting other schools will prove to have been a valuable experience for heads when they return to their own institutions. He points to the 1993 Teachers' Pay Review Body report, which says that schools often lack the means to compare themselves with other schools and can be insular.
It is not yet known how many AIs will be recruited, but a second group of secondments is planned for January 1996. Participants will have the option of shorter secondments than the full year.
Meanwhile, OFSTED's new team inspector training pilot course, using distance-learning methods as well as tutorial sessions is to be launched next month, with 100 trainees. "If demand outstrips supply we shall give priority to those who indicate that they have clear plans to be involved in inspection, " says the letter to applicants.