Primary riposte

14th November 1997 at 00:00
The article "Closure looms after course reinspection"(TES, November 7) contained some errors, omissions and misunderstandings.

As you say, the chief inspector ordered a further inspection of primary teacher training. He did this because evidence from previous rounds made it clear that, in at least some courses, there were questions about students' training and readiness to teach basic reading and number. It was not, of course, a re-inspection; it had specific methods of inspection designed to test out in detail these key skills.

It is not the case that almost all primary training courses have now been inspected in this round; more than 50 are in this academic year's programme, and we intend to complete the inspections by summer 1998. This includes the London Institute of Education, which has agreed to be inspected in the same year as most of the other providers, not a year later, as you say.

It is the case that a grade 4 for a single cell signifies non-compliance with the relevant government circular (1493) in relation to the criteria for that cell, and it is the case that the cell in question (T4) is about the quality and consistency of the assessment of students' teaching. It follows that poor quality, inconsistency or inaccuracy in these matters signifies non-compliance. After all, the circular in question makes it clear that no student should be awarded qualified teacher status who does not deserve that award. Inspectors' judgments of their competence - based on inspecting students' lessons, observing them in training, reading their assignments and discussions - are, therefore, crucial in deciding whether courses are complying. This makes Professor Mortimore's statement especially alarming, since the question of whether students should pass or not is a basic, key issue in quality assurance.

From time to time we meet by mutual agreement the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and other umbrella groups for professional discussions. Two such meetings were held last week. They were not "called" by the CVCP.

There are certainly some differences in grades from the primary "sweep" to the follow-up survey. That is hardly surprising, since the latter has a more specific focus and new inspection framework.

Finally, it is of course the case that the Teacher Training Agency is bound to take full account of all inspection evidence, and all grade 4s will be considered as part of that process. We have indicated to all providers receiving any grade 4 that our practice in such circumstances is to carry out a further inspection.

I also hope that your readers will understand that the quality of providers' assessment of students - even if it were on "only one or two" - (though in fact it is not) - is something which needs to be as good and reliable as possible, whatever psychometrics may say.

DAVID TAYLOR Head of the teacher education team OFSTED London

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