Inspection review denied bold head

6th November 1998 at 00:00
Ministers do not plan radical changes in the inspection system they inherited from the Conservatives, chief inspector Chris Woodhead, said this week.

Apart from introducing "lighter-touch" inspections for good schools, the Government is not engaged in a major review of the Office for Standards in Education, he told a London conference organised by the National Union of Teachers and the Demos think tank.

Mr Woodhead's insistence that ministers intend to retain the present system followed fierce criticism of school inspections from Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

In opposition, Labour had suggested it might stop using privatised inspection teams.

The chief inspector said: "To the best of my knowledge . . . there is no political intention to change the OFSTED inspection of schools."

He rejected the NUT's proposal that schools could evaluate themselves as long as this was combined with an external review.

The NUT is complaining in its submission to the Commons education select committee enquiry into the work of OFSTED that much of the Pounds 150 million spent on inspection is probably wasted.

In addition, it argues, inspections have created a system in which schools and teachers prepare for evaluation out of fear rather than enthusiasm.

The union's general secretary, Mr McAvoy said the fact that OFSTED has a role in appraising the performance of teachers as part of a school inspection was "sinister" in the light of the Government's plans to introduce performance-related pay.

Professor John MacBeath of the Quality in Education Centre at Strathclyde University, said his research showed the value to schools of embarking on self-review. In most cases, it had helped raise teachers' morale.

However, Mr Woodhead told the conference that a recent OFSTED study had shown that two-thirds of the problems discovered during inspection of secondary schools had not been anticipated by schools. In primaries, the proportion was three-quarters.

The prime function of inspection, he said, was to provide accountability to parents. No self-evaluation by schools could have the currency of OFSTED reports.

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