Ofsted 'purple prose' under attack

13th May 2005 at 01:00
Claims by the Office for Standards in Education about the positive effects of specialist schools are not justified by the watchdog's own research, according to a leading academic.

Ron Glatter, a visiting professor at the Open university and Warwick university, said there seemed little to back up several of the inspectorate's findings, including an assertion that specialist schools did not disadvantage neighbouring non-specialists. Professor Glatter has suggested that Ofsted's eagerness to praise the schools raises questions about its independence, as the scheme to expand specialist schools has strong support from ministers.

Ofsted published a broadly positive report on specialist schools in February, which said the status was a catalyst for improvement.

In a statement promoting the study, the inspectorate said that it had carried out a survey which "found no evidence that other schools located nearby were disadvantaged by having a specialist school in the area".

Professor Glatter said he had been surprised to find no details of the survey in the published study.

He contacted the watchdog and obtained a short report giving details of the survey of 60 specialist schools and its findings.

It said that there was "not sufficient evidence" to indicate whether or not the schools and their neighbours were improving at different rates at GCSE level.

Professor Glatter said: "That has a very different implication to the statement in the release. In fact, there is evidence in the main report that non-specialists which are neighbours of specialist schools have a lower level of attainment than non-specialists do nationally."

Professor Glatter said that he had been struck by the "purple prose" written by David Bell, chief inspector, about specialist schools, which he said would not have been out of place in a minister's speech.

"There still seems a big question about how independent his organisation really is," Professor Glatter said.

An Ofsted spokeswoman stressed that it was an independent organisation.

Although its survey had been inconclusive about rates of improvement at GCSE, it had found that non-specialists which were close to specialists had similar levels of attainment to others.

The Ofsted report also highlighted that more than half of specialists had failed to meet GCSE targets in their chosen subjects.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now