Poverty is no excuse for a gulf in achievement

1st March 1996 at 00:00
Rare and delightful though it is to have a front-page story and leader in TES praising the Office for Standards in Education ("Inspectors to take account of deprivation", February 23), I cannot allow myself to bask in the warm glow.

Work on the new pre-inspection context and schools indicator (PICSI) reports is still going on in OFSTED and no final decisions have been taken about the range of statistical information and analysis which will be included.

You are quite right to emphasise the importance of comparing like with like. My recent annual report focused on the gulf in achievement between schools in similar circumstances. But before we give inspectors the tools to make such comparisons at the time of inspection, we have to be certain the components are the right ones.

When OFSTED reports reveal time and time again that low expectation by teachers of their pupils' abilities is a prominent feature of unsatisfactory teaching and achievement, it is essential that OFSTED does nothing to encourage the use of pupils' backgrounds as an excuse for poor performance.

The paper on which your article was based was a discussion paper written many months ago. We have decided not to adopt the model used in that paper in its current form. I am sorry we led your reporter to believe otherwise.

CHRIS WOODHEAD OFSTED 33 Kingsway London WC2

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