Luck plays no part in inspections

9th January 1998 at 00:00
In response to Catherine Ashton's concerns (TES, December 19) about the process of inspection, luck does not play a part; neither is the inspection a "three-and-a-half day snapshot".

Before we enter the school we have examined a wide range of evidence, including minutes of meetings, pupils' work, parents' views and the pre-inspection discussion between the registered inspector and the headteacher.

Each team is composed of professionals who have been involved in education for several decades. Every school is individual, even within the same county, and inspectors' experience is carefully matched to school contexts.

There has to be standardisation of language. We write for an audience of intelligent parents and governors. Words such as "all right" or "average" would also be open to misinterpretation.

The criteria used by inspectors is well-known and in the public domain. The framework is sent to all schools on being notified of inspection. We all undertake regular training. The Office for Standards in Education insists that we keep our standards high and consistent.

Reports are rigorously monitored by OFSTED, and the process is being continually reviewed and sharpened. Far from being complacent, and trusting to luck, the calibre of the teams and the standards of the reports continue to rise.

WENDY HARKNETT Headteacher and OFSTED inspector 6 Lancaster Close Old Hurst Cambridgeshire

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