Independent inspection denigrated

18th October 1996 at 01:00
The allegations by David Jamieson about "lax and vague" inspection arrangements for the independent sector (TES, October 4) are without foundation and his selective quotations from reports about individual schools are out of date.

It is a glaring untruth that our inspection system is confined to the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and the Girls' Schools Association. Between them these two bodies account for well under half the membership of the Independent Schools Joint Council. All 1,350 of our affiliated schools are subject to inspection.

Mr Jamieson's comments have the flavour of deliberate denigration of the independent sector in defiance of the facts. It will be of great interest to schools in ISJC to know to what extent they reflect views in the Labour party more widely.


General secretary Independent Schools Joint Council Grosvenor Gardens London SW1

What a sorry picture of further education was drawn by the several articles in your paper (TES, September 27). A sorry but sadly accurate one.

In restructuring FE in 1993 the Government on the one hand put colleges under strong central financial control while on the other, through incorporation, it tried to make them operate as independent businesses in an educational "market place". The consequences of this double whammy are now apparent as colleges spend their time and energy in an unedifying scramble for money: competing with one another and other educational institutions for students; jumping on every passing funding bandwagon regardless of its educational value; reducing the cost of staff by cutting the number of full time lecturers, freezing the pay of those who remain and loading them with impossible teaching schedules.

Colleges who should be concentrating their limited resources on teaching and teachers are spending money on public relations, marketing and freebies in desperate efforts to recruit more students who will end up being taught in ever larger classes. And prospective students are encouraged to think of themselves not as potential members of an educational community with responsibilities as well as rights, but as customers shopping in an educational market. So they fail to inform colleges that they have decided not to take up the offer of a place. Do you write to explain to Sainsbury that you have decided call in at Tesco?

Further education, its students and its staff, are too important to be left to the vagaries of the market place particularly when the principal customer - the one who pays - is a penurious, ill-disposed and ill-informed Government.

ANGELA MARTIN 3 St John's Close Hethersett Norwich In his Labour party conference address, Tony Blair made an important observation about education. This was that a country's position on the international educational league table will tend to predict its position on the equivalent economic league table of prosperity. His overriding policy priority, therefore, will be education, education, education. So beyond this rhetoric, what is on offer if Labour gains power?

Basically, that the comprehensive system is to remain. Significant and informed consensus has long existed, outside the educational establishment and its supporters, that comprehensive schooling - a veritably creeking socialist-conception - has progressively degraded educational standards and contributed to social malaise ever since the 1960s. Selection by academic ability has been replaced by selection according to the socio-economic status of school catchment areas. Small wonder that an opinion poll, reported earlier this year (TES, January 26), found more support for grammar schools among the lower social classes than among professional and managerial classes. New Labour certainly appears to be signalling a radical shift in its traditional class-allegiance.

MARTIN BRADLEY 15 Repington Rd South Amington Tamworth Staffordshire

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