Heads urged to rate inspectors

26th May 2000 at 01:00
Head of Manchester Grammar School demands public league table of OFSTED team members. reports Warwick Mansell

NATIONAL league tables of school inspectors, with each given a rating of 0 to 10, should be introduced to weed out poor performers, a leading head urged today.

Writing in The TES, Dr Martin Stephen, the high master of Manchester Grammar School, said the current inspection system was "inherently unfair" because inspectors were not subjected to the same public scrutiny as schools.

However, the Office for Standards in Education claimed it was effective in identifying weak inspectors. A spokesman said that 21 registered inspectors had been struck off in the past two years.

Under Dr Stephen's proposals, each inspection team member would be rated by a school after his or her visit. These marks would be added up at the end of the year and the results published in a league table.

This system is loosely modelled on that for Premiership soccer referees, in which both teams are asked to deliver a post-match verdict of officials.

Currently school inspectors are scrutinised by the 175 HM inspectors who transferred to OFSTED from its predecessor, HM Inspectorate. These specialist staff visit schools to monitor 30 per cent of inspections, and scrutinise one in six reports. But their reports are not made public.

Schools are sent a questionnaire so that they can comment after an inspection. They can also complain to OFSTED and an adjudicator.

But Eamonn O'Kane, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "If league tables are a fac of life for improving performance, league tables for inspectors seem a perfectly reasonable idea."

Andy Connell, teacher at Appleby Grammar School, Cumbria, who has just been elected to the General Teaching Council, said: "Given that inspectors have the power to make a lot of people's lives miserable, why shouldn't schools have this ability to rate how they are doing their job."

Premiership referee David Elleray, a housemaster at Harrow who is also an independent schools inspector, said: "There are differences between the two systems, in that reports on referees are not published, and although managers are asked to comment, the ratings are carried out by independent observers.

"I would argue that that is better than being judged by people who are directly involved, who may not always be objective."

His comments were backed up by an OFSTED spokesman who said analysis of post-inspection comments revealed a clear relationship between how well a school does in an inspection and its praise for the inspectors.

He added: "I find it strange that this is coming from the head of an independent schools which has never had an OFSTED inspection."

John Chowcat, general secretary of the National Association of Educational Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants, said: "Heads are aiming in the wrong direction with this. The vast majority of inspectors do a very professional job."

And chief inspector Chris Woodhead was unimpressed. "I don't think this is a practical, sensible or indeed workable idea," he said.

Platform, 15

Leader, 16

Inspecting the inspectors,

Friday, 29

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