Luck and the inspection process

23rd January 1998 at 00:00
Wendy Harknett (TES, January 9, letters) surely cannot believe that luck plays no part in the process of inspection and that the system is without flaws.

As an inner-city school, with families facing many difficulties, we had a recent inspection. Ms Harknett says that the inspectors are professionals who have been involved in education for several decades. I could not dispute this, but not one of our five inspectors had been a primary teacher or head since 1976 (other than short periods of supply teaching for the former secondary head). None had worked in, or managed a primary school since the introduction of local management or the national curriculum.

If the experience of inspectors is carefully matched to the context of the school, perhaps she could tell me how running a rural independent school, a private music school, working in Tanzania and as an education consultant in India equips an inspector to make up-to-date judgments about an inner-city primary school in a large conurbation - except to broaden their horizons of course. Not one of the team had working experience of inner-city schools since the 1970s.

On the question of luck - our inspection was in June, the sun shone, the school field could be used. A week of rain and no outdoor breaks or dinner hours could well have affected our report.

Yes, the language has to be standardised. Yes, our inspection team was polite, pleasant and professional. Yes, the registered inspector did offer to change the team when I raised the question of their lack of recent experience.

Yes, we were satisfied with our report, but in the words of John McEnroe, Ms Harknett "cannot be serious". It requires a thorough, detailed analysis and review, to make sure that Ofsted inspectors have some recent, credible, experience of the type and sector of the schools they are inspecting.


Headteacher Sandford primary school Bramley, Leeds

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