Heads urged to report bad inspectors

25th September 1998 at 01:00
Heads and governors have been asked to become whistle-blowers in a campaign by the Office for Standards in Education to remove failing and maverick inspectors.

Chris Woodhead, re-appointed as the chief inspector of schools last week,said one of the first tasks of his new term in office will be to improve the reliability and validity of inspectors' reports. And he said he would deal ruthlessly with those who bring their "ideological baggage" into the classroom.

"Inspectors who . . . do not try to engage with a school's vision and instead impose their idiosyncratic view of what constitutes a good education will not work for OFSTED," he said.

He said complaints would be dealt with by an impartial investigation.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat annual conference in Brighton, Mr Woodhead said he wanted to reduce the variability of inspectors' reports.

However, he said he does not share the "apocalyptic" view of Durham University professor Carol Taylor Fitz-Gibbon who, in a letter in today's TES, quotes research saying OFSTED "does not work and its poor methodology is a disgrace".

During the question session, Jackie Pearcey, a Manchester councillor, said in her experience HM inspectors were much more reliable than OFSTED's independent inspectors. She said some inspectors made remarks showing they had low opinions of children and parents from deprived areas.

"OFSTED's policy appears to be never apologise, never explain," she said. Mr Woodhead replied: "Let me apologise for the inspectors who made the derogatory remarks. Give me their names. I am determined to deal with failure within the system."

The inspection service was also criticised by Liberal Democrat delegates for poor experience in special needs teaching. One recounted an inspectors' report on a school for autistic children which noted the children had problems interacting with each other.

Mr Woodhead said he planned to crack down on the language used in inspection reports which, he said, were often riddled with convoluted syntax and jargon.

He will be introducing "lighter touch" inspections for schools which have had good OFSTED reports and exam results, but he said he would be concentrating on schools which are relatively high in the league tables but which should be doing better because of their intake.

Last Friday Mr Woodhead accepted a new contract giving him a further four years as OFSTED chief, on an enhanced salary of Pounds 115,000 plus 10 per cent performance-related bonus which takes effect from this month.

News, page 5 Analysis, page 28

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