Inspectors measured against own criteria

6th June 1997 at 01:00
In view of widespread misgivings about the Office for Standards in Education inspection process and the new Government's proposals for closing failing institutions and making a fresh start with new senior staff on the same site, I am tempted to send the following report to OFSTED (copy to the head of the Standards and Effectiveness Unit, Department for Education and Employment). It follows the required form of wording for institutions judged to be in need of special measures:

As a registered inspector, I have consulted the criteria listed in Annex 1 of the 1996 OFSTED Framework for Inspection. I am of the opinion that special measures are required in relation to OFSTED because it is failing (or likely to fail) to give the Secretary of State an acceptable standard of advice and some primary schools an acceptable standard of inspection. In accordance with Section 206(2) of the Education Act 1993, I am sending this report to Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools and will await his judgement whether he agrees or not that his own organisation requires special measures.

OFSTED is in need of special measures for the following reasons: * low standards of inspection in a significant minority of primary school inspections;

* a high level of exclusions (self-imposed or enforced) of senior professional staff;

* significant levels of harassment;

* inspection teams have inappropriate expectations of many primary schools and are not adequately qualified or experienced in the primary phase;

* poor provision for inspectors' and schools' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development;

* the confrontational relationships between the chief inspector, his staff and the teaching profession;

* a great loss of confidence in the chief inspector by OFSTED staff, teachers, governors and parents;

* demoralisation and disenchantment among staff and teachers;

* poor senior management and inefficient use made of resources, including finance;

* poor value for money provided on too many primary inspections.

In the spirit of the new Government's principles, I recommend that OFSTED be closed down and replaced by a truly educational association. This could be based in Alexandra House, termed "Her Majesty's Inspectorate" and be headed by a non-political, senior chief inspector of schools such as Malcolm Thornton.

COLIN RICHARDS

1 Bobbin Mill Spark Bridge Ulverston, Cumbria

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