Protesting too much over health and safety

20th September 1996 at 01:00
No one at the Office for Standards in Education would dream of saying inspectors "would continue to challenge the view of the Health and Safety Executive" (TES August 30).

Inspectors are expected to report on any matters which constitute a threat to health and safety. The OFSTED handbook makes it clear that inspectors do not carry out a safety audit, but should look out for anything that might pose a serious threat.

The reported "refusal to co-operate with the distribution" of guides from the Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services and two other bodies is a distortion of events. The policy of Update (OFSTED's newsletter for inspectors) is to publicise only materials and courses commissioned by OFSTED or in which it has had significant involvement. This is to assure the quality and accuracy of advice to registered inspectors. The CLEAPSS publications met neither of those criteria.

OFSTED's handbooks include the necessary guidance for inspecting safety, including references to established safety publications in science, physical education and design and technology.

Your article does not make clear the extent to which inspectors are making "a song and dance about minor infringements" or "inappropriate and wrong recommendations". Our evidence is that it is very small, although we are ready to listen and act where inspectors exceed their brief. Is a mountain being made out of a molehill?

ALAN SYKES Inspection Quality, Monitoring and Development OFSTED Alexandra House 33 Kingsway London WC2

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