Insane inspection system has to end;Letter

29th January 1999 at 00:00
I kept bumping into myself in the pages of last week's TES. On page 1 I was the celebrated victim of the now notorious "bully inspector" Geoffrey Owen. In the Opinion section a former governor David Jordan had me as a heel-dragging reactionary who got what he deserved. In Friday I featured as a bit part in Mr Owen's self-justificatory saga of his own fall.

This is my version. I was head of a school with problems but also strengths. I was proud of my school. I worked as conscientiously, as honourably and as well as I know how. I gave it my best shot and so did my staff.

Owen's inspection smashed my career and destroyed my health, sending me close to suicide. I didn't deserve that. The Office for Standards in Education refused to investigate when I and others complained. That wasn't right. Chief inspector Chris Woodhead sacked Mr Owen three years later after a messed-up inspection in Bristol, but apparently still thinks he's a great guy.

The Owen affair is simply the best current illustration of the problems that now beset an organisation designed to force the teaching profession into reluctant conformity to the edicts of increasingly prescriptive Government policy.

Bludgeoning schools every few years with the sledgehammer blow of an OFSTED inspection has got to be the craziest idea for school improvement.

Somehow civilised values must be restored. Genuine dialogue, real debate about policy and inspection coupled to advice and support should all have a part to play in restoring a sense of worth to a battered and disillusioned profession.

Inspectors must conduct themselves with humanity and professionalism. There must be an independent appeals and complaints procedure.

The chief inspector must be someone who is worthy of trust and respect otherwise the war will continue and the number of honourable people destroyed by this insane system will continue to rise.

John Harries

29 Silverdale Road



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