Inspectors are unfairly maligned

19th May 2000 at 01:00
I HAVE followed your reports and correspondents' views on the damage inflicted by the Office for Standards in Education with a growing sense of despair. The letters in the TES of May 5 eventually goaded me into a reply.

Three years ago, I retired from teaching after 20 years and decided to train as a secondary school inspector.

Since then, I have travelled the country working in a wide variety of schools. I have witnessed many very good, and some excellent, lessons as well as rare examples of damagingly incompetent teaching.

Pupils deserve the best that the education system can offer and it is surely right to highlight the unsatisfactory as well as to praise the good. As inspectors, we are not looking for the perfect lesson, or for a standard format - our chief aim is to report on the effectiveness with which children learn from the multitude of different strategies teachers employ.

Early OFSTED inspections may have suffered from being introduced too hastily, with the employment of some less than suitable and inadequately trained inspectors.

The current system is far removed from this: I find the verwhelming majority of my colleagues to be committed, professional and constructive. Most, like me, are former teachers and remain passionately concerned about the quality of education that this country provides.

I do not underestimate the impact that I have when I enter a department, but so far I have always been received with courtesy and co-operation.

During the inspection process, I find most teachers eager to show what they do well and they can be disarmingly honest about their own performance.

Suicide occurs right across society and usually for complex reasons. It is dangerous and wrong to imply a simple and direct causal link with the OFSTED process.

A good manager is vital to help staff to cope with this stress. It seems to me that some of the heads who have aired their views in your columns increase stress levels unnecessarily through their attitude to OFSTED.

I have now completed nearly 20 inspections and have established very good working relationships with teachers. Have you received no letters from teachers reporting favourable experiences?

(Name and address withheld)

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