Progress depends on giving OFSTED a chance

17th May 1996 at 01:00
Headteacher Roger Harris (Letters, TES, May 3) says that Colin Richards' attack on the chief inspector will strike a chord with many teachers. In the absence of any honest and objective evaluation of the chief inspector's message, he may well be right.

However, for those of us who accept that it is our responsibility to listen in detail to our chief inspector, we will not be encouraged either by Mr Richards' defence of his actions or by The TES's explanation as to why the the final paragraph of Mr Woodhead's letter was omitted (Letters, April 26).

The Office for Standards in Education has a crucial role to play in school improvement and the profession needs to work closely in partnership with OFSTED if we are to move forward. We won't do this if we fail to give OFSTED a fair hearing or if we allow others to interpret the chief inspector's message for us.

I would ask every primary teacher to read the chief inspector's annual report. Even though some aspects of the report contain constructive criticisms, I know of no other document that is so pragmatically supportive of the best primary practice. Chris Woodhead even says, "there are twice as many really excellent teachers as there are poor teachers", but are most teachers aware that he has written this?

I would also ask heads to consider Nigel de Gruchy's request that they stop hyping up the inspection process. How can heads be helping their staff, or school improvement generally, if they themselves treat an inspection as a threatening, rather than an enabling, process?

Statistics or no statistics, our primary schools need improving. We may not like being reminded of this, but we all know that it is true.

Neither the fact that our chief inspector surrounds his message with supportive statements that are deliberately ignored, nor the fact that The TES chose to omit the statement that OFSTED was prepared to open its data bank for scrutiny, will strike a welcome chord with those teachers who want an honest debate about how best to improve the quality of teaching and learning in our primary schools.

JIM HUDSON

Headteacher

Two Mile Ash GM middle school

The High Street

Two Mile Ash

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

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