MPs may vet inspector's report

20th March 1998 at 00:00
The chief inspector could be forced to subject his annual report to the full scrutiny of Parliament, to prevent misleading spins being given to inspection information, writes Frances Rafferty.

Don Foster, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, has tabled an amendment to the School Standards and Framework Bill, to give MPs the power to approve the report.

He said: "Inspection information should be subject to public analysis and not just the slant given by the chief inspector. Parliament should be able to see if inspections are achieving the aim of raising standards and whether they give value for money."

Although the Government is unlikely to accept the amendment, it will be forced into a debate on the accountability of the chief inspector. Chris Woodhead has been criticised for being too close to Conservative and Labour governments in a new book by former Secondary Heads Association president John Dunford, HMI since 1944: standard bearers or turbulent priests? .

However, Mr Foster is expected to be successful with a bid to make caning illegal in private schools. It is already banned in state schools. The move is supported by the Independent Schools Council and a free vote in the Commons is expected to have a large majority.

Mr Foster will also be attempting to undermine the Government intention to make home-school contracts compulsory, although not legally binding. He said: "Schools should have a policy to develop contact with parents and make them aware of their responsibilities. The consultation should be a two-way process and not, as the Government intends, a piece of paper which must be signed on the first day a child attends school."

Margaret Tulloch, chief executive of the Campaign for State Education, said home-school contracts could be divisive and would impose an extra administrative burden on schools.

The Liberal Democrats will also challenge the Government on its policy on partial selection. The Bill allows selection where it exists to continue and will allow all schools with a specialism to recruit 10 per cent of their pupils by aptitude. Ministers will be asked to elaborate on how aptitude differs from ability.

Shadow education secretary Stephen Dorrell will ask about government plans for ballots to end grammar schools. Graham Brady, Altrincham and Sale West MP, has tabled an amendment to protect two Catholic grammar schools in his constituency. He said: "The Government's proposed balloting arrangements will put the future of Catholic schools into the hands of parents who are not Catholic."

* Tuition fees revolt, page 13

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