Inspectors seen but not heard

14th September 2001 at 01:00
Teachers are failing to act on inspection advice, according to new research. Sue Learner reports.

FEWER than a third of teachers pay heed to the advice of school inspectors and change the way they teach, new research reveals.

Christopher Chapman, research associate at Nottingham University, blamed "inspection fatigue" and the huge variation in feedback from inspectors for the lack of response.

Mr Chapman, who is carrying out a study into the Office for Standards in Education and school improvement in challenging circumstances, said: "The current framework gives inspectors clear guidance on feedback, but some teachers are being given it quickly at the end of the lesson. In other cases, inspectors are sitting down properly with teachers and going over things in detail. I would like to see it standardised."

His study, involving a sample of recently inspected schools in challenging circumstances, also looked at whether inspectors found similar priorities for change as those identified by schools. Preliminary findings suggested that most schools had a rough idea of the key issues before the inspection, but that did not necessarily mean they were tackling them.

Mr Chapman is still exploring whether OFSTED has a beneficial effect on schools in challenging circumstances. He said: "The jury is out on that one; further research is required. However, it is becoming clearer that inspection can act as a force for change in certain schools, but we need to develop a more sensitive context-specific approach with the power to improve all schools."

The study found that schools in challenging circumstances faced a number of similar problems. These included weak leadership at various levels, factions of competing staff, high staff mobility and low expectations among staff and pupils.

Mr Chapman has welcomed the consultation document published on Monday which will shake up school inspections. He believes the scrapping of grading of individual teachers will be highly beneficial. "I think that lesson observation has always been a contentious method for assessing teachers due to issues of reliability, " he said.

He is also pleased with the move to bring in a flexible inspection model. "I am glad they are moving away from the idea that one size fits all models."

Mr Chapman will be presenting his paper "OFSTED and school improvement in challenging circumstances" at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference at Leeds University tomorrow.

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