Inspectors' inspector not happy in her work

17th July 1998 at 01:00
The newly-appointed school inspections watchdog says her position is compromised because she can be sacked by the people she is supposed to vet.

Elaine Rassaby, the Office for Standards in Education complaints adjudicator, said she thought it would have been better had she had been appointment by the Secretary of State.

She told the House of Commons education select committee that she was appointed by an OFSTED-led panel which would also decide whether to renew her one-year contract. The panel included two OFSTED employees and Dame Anne Poole as an independent member.

Ms Rassaby's job will be to deal with complaints about OFSTED that are not satisfactorily dealt with by its own internal procedure. She told MPs that she did not expect her workload to be too great because of the barriers put up by OFSTED's procedure. She said it took so long that many people fell by the wayside.

Her powers, she said, are not wide-ranging. She will not be able to have amendments made to inspection reports or force a re-inspection. She said she may be able to request OFSTED to write to a school and in some cases, for example maladministration, may be able to suggest a small financial penalty.

Ms Rassaby said it was only at her insistence that she is able to appoint her own staff, rather than take on administrative support from OFSTED. And originally it was only OFSTED that would have seen a draft report on any complaint she was dealing with. At her insistence the complainant will also receive a copy.

Ms Rassaby, formerly a commissioner and adjudicator in the mental health field, admitted she still had a lot to learn about the education service.

She said she would publish an annual report and will cover complaints arising from inspection s of schools, nurseries, local education authorities and teacher training institutions.

She told the committee that she was concerned OFSTED had not publicised her appointment enough so that people would know she existed and was part of the complaints procedure.

She said she thought she did have a fire-fighting role, rather than just responding to complaints.

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