OFSTED will get false picture

21st September 2001 at 01:00
Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery may I, through your columns, thank the chief inspector for planning to give students questionnaires about their attitudes and return this data to schools? We have been doing this since 1984, the second year of our A-level Information System project.

Unfortunately, questionnaire responses are sensitive indicators, easily corrupted. Collected in good faith for a university to provide confidential data to a school for self-evaluation, they work well. But in the hands of an inspection service whose methods have never been validated and have certainly resulted in injustices on many occasions, the data will be suspect.

Take racism, for example. For a student to tell a university about it is one thing .. to tell inspectors and "let down" hisher school is quite another. Should they be honest or loyal? As usual Ofsted seems set to make things worse, not better.

(Professor) CT Fitz-Gibbon University of Durham

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