OFSTED: limited but also fair

27th November 1998 at 00:00
ONE wonders precisely why the sub-heading to your article ("Watch out, the inspector's about" TES, School Management Update, November 13) refers to criticisms of our inspections as "limited, inconsistent and very expensive" but omits from this forbidding list of adjectives "fair", which appears in the text.

What is much worse is the insistence on reporting by innuendo. Thus there are suspicions of "unwitting prejudice". Whose suspicions? Whose prejudice? Whose belief is it that the inspection commentary is "written higher up the inspectorate by people senior to the inspection team"? Had the reporter checked with me she would have discovered that that belief is erroneous.

To suggest otherwise, while hiding behind the views of nameless others, amounts to an insult of every lead inspector and team member for lacking the integrity to insist their judgments are properly reflected in the text.

Had your reporter read the reports, even the first line of the Birmingham report would have been sufficient to discount the suggestion of "negative spin". It would take a little more energy to get through the recommendations in the Manchester report. If she had done so she would have found so many and such fundamental failures that she may wish to revise her view of our rather moderate commentary.

The TES must ask itself why it chooses to report what is basically good news in a way which tells the public more about its own bias than about the Office for Standards in Education. It is for example true that some chief education officers regard inspections as "limited". We think a better word might be "focused". Surely no one is arguing about the importance of concentrating on school performance?

David Singleton Head of LEA inspections OFSTED The editor writes: David Singleton makes a fair point about the subhead, but we did point out that LEA inspection reports as a whole are generally regarded as fair. But for The TES to report the anonymous views of those involved is not "innuendo"; OFSTED reports contain similar unattributed comments.

The "negative spin" was perceived in OFSTED summaries. Reporting that belief is hardly a reflection on individual inspectors, when a spokesman for OFSTED said at the time of the Birmingham report that, "like the editor of a newspaper" HM Chief Inspector was responsible for everything OFSTED published.

As for "limited" versus "focused", the fourth paragraph of the article said OFSTED reports "focus above all on an LEA's efforts to improve schools". It then went on: "Chief education officers say although this is crucial, elements such as adult and community education, the youth service and music services, can and should contribute a great deal to raising standards". Readers can judge whether this was bias or reporting on an important debate.

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