Inspectors bent the rules

7th May 2004 at 01:00
Head of a 'good and effective' school speaks out. Jon Slater reports

Michael Carding believes his school's excellent inspection report was the result of inspectors bending the rules.

The head of Bishop Heber high school, Malpas, Cheshire, is determined to expose a system that he believes is unfairly failing schools.

Inspectors visited his 1,090-pupil school in March. Their report describes it as "a good and effective school with many significant strengths which provides good value for money".

But Mr Carding said. "The inspection regime would have led to some very silly results unless inspectors had not been flexible with us. On two or three occasions the inspectors took me to one side and said we have a problem here."

Concerns were raised about information and communication technology, citizenship and the school's finances. In each case, if the inspection framework had been rigidly followed, the school would have been judged to have serious weaknesses, he was told.

He added: "I felt sorry for the inspectors. I think they had fallen in love with the school but they appeared weighed down with a framework they did not feel comfortable with."

Mr Carding likens his experience to that of a student who has a terrible time sitting an exam, leaves the hall convinced he has failed only to be told he has passed with flying colours. He had expected the new inspection framework, introduced last September, to result in a more sensible approach.

"In its heart of hearts Ofsted knows the new framework has not delivered the kind of collegiate culture they wanted to move to," he said. "Schools are falling foul of the new framework as shown by the increased number judged to be failing. We need this problem out in the open."

Michael Miller, the registered inspector who visited the school, said:

"Teams have to make professional judgments. We listen carefully and attempt to give schools every opportunity to provide us with the information needed to do that.

"In this case, everyone from governors through to the head and leadership group enabled a thoroughly positive and professional dialogue to take place."

Colin Wheeler's week 31

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