Inspectors can so easily lose touch

11th December 1998 at 00:00
I read Tim Brighouse's article "In search of fallibility" (TES, November 27) with interest.

Our school is embarking on its second Office of Standards in Education inspection this week. A major difference this time is that I have been involved in nearly 30 primary and nursery inspections since our "good" OFSTED in 1994.

I was a member of the first tranche of additional OFSTED inspectors recruited in 1995. I was monitored very closely and rigorously by HM Inspectorate during the year and although I encountered a steep learning curve I always felt that I could draw on recent and relevant teaching and school experience to support judgments.

In terms of professional development, the year surpassed any previous in-service training I had encountered. Since then I have continued to inspect.

During my inspection work I have met many able and talented inspectors.

The vast majority are committed and want to get their judgments right. A major problem, however, is that many no longer teach or work in schools. Their "recent and relevant" experience is fading fast.

How many inspectors have ever taught the literacy hour? How many know how difficult it is to conduct group reading with 34 or more pupils? How many really know what a level 4 piece of writing looks like? How many have had to work within tight budget restraints and raise attainment levels?

In order to generate greater confidence in the OFSTED system we must ensure that current teachers and headteachers are involved.

I'm not looking for a system whereby the teachers simply inspect each other, but there must be a place for current staff to be properly trained, mentored, monitored and given time to support full time inspectors.

Perhaps every inspection team should have at least one practising schools professional?

We will never be able to make inspections infallible, but we can try to ensure that they are conducted by professionals who know what it is like, and who do teach in school in the 1990s.

Frank Norris. Headteacher. Lower Park county primary. Hazelbadge Road. Poynton. Cheshire

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