Letters extra: In defence of inspectors

4th June 2004 at 01:00

I read Andrew Broadhead's letter "Stop tinkering and abolish" ( TES, 7 May 2004 ) with some interest and not a little astonishment. I have considerable sympathy with the view he states that "the present format must be replaced by a system which is acceptable to the teaching profession one that could work with, rather than against, teachers and would have a true aim of improvement rather than the currently perceived objective of fault-finding and condemnation."

I would have even more sympathy if I did not judge this statement to be somewhat anachronistic. Ofsted has for some time emphasised the need for inspection to be done "with rather than to schools". My evidence overall is that the majority of schools value external inspection, set against a form of national calibration, that give the school a yardstick against which to test their own self evaluation.

This has been the thrust of Ofsted inspection which both Mike Tomlinson and currently David Bell have, in my view, successfully promoted.

Innbsp; Guardian Education ( 230304) John Dunford of the Secondary Heads Association wrote that the Ofsted framework, introduced in September, "has proved popular with many headteachers. " He added that its "increased flexibility, in the hands of a good inspector, has given a more useful analysis of a school's position. The problem has been that some poor inspectors have used the flexibility to target specific areas and failed to balance weaknesses with strengths in analysing the school's performance." I would agree absolutely with him.

I also enjoyed his lively description of " intransigent, inflexible and insensitive" school inspectors ( TES, May 7). Inspection is carried out by professionals who are human and fallible. In my career, as an LEA inspector, an HMI and now as Director of Inspection for Tribal PPI providing over 500 inspections annually, my overwhelming experience is of professional inspectors working conscientiously.

The vast majority of inspectors I meet have a deep sense of personal commitment to the education young people receive. They recognise the privilege they have in visiting a diversity of schools, meeting with a wide variety of teachers and seeing a range of teaching, and being able to share that experience to, in some small measure, support schools in their constant drive to improve. I have had many conversations and letters from headteachers, staff and governors who have shared their satisfaction with the outcomes of their inspection and the benefits that they feel have accrued from their inspection.

Andrew Broadhead's hyperbolic description of a profession rent by resignations, nervous breakdowns, divorce and death consequent upon Ofsted inspection and of swathes of professionals weeping inconsolably on the night before inspection, bereft of libido, is not one that I recognise.

Nor, I would hazard, would most of the teachers I meet. But then I would say that wouldn't I!

Richard Whitburn
Director of Inspection
Tribal PPInbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

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