School audits rethink

15th October 1999 at 01:00
Standards boss says new regime will mean 'a process of target-getting rather than target-setting'.

THE whole approach of HMI to auditing the performance of schools is to be reviewed.

This is the first task which Bill Clark, the new head of the Inspectorate's audit unit, has set himself over the next six months. Mr Clark, who began work on Monday, has had extensive experience in Australia and south of the border of dealing with school standards and effectiveness.

He plans to sound out colleagues in the Inspectorate, headteachers and directors of education about the best way schools can be supported in the drive to raise standards and is expected to work closely with "failing" schools to help turn them round.

Mr Clark said he was conscious of complaints by schools that they were "inundated" with material from the audit unit. "Now is perhaps the time to consolidate and to concentrate on embedding change," he said.

"Audit is quite a narrow term and much of the work which the unit does is quite routine, like the publication of exam results."

Mr Clark continued: "We need to look not only at how the audit process connects with the work of the rest of the Inspectorate, but also how it connects with the rest of the work that schools do.

"Target-setting, for example, is often seen as a science disconnected from the process of education. It is a useful tool but it cannot be divorced from good quality teaching and learning and from good quality management.

"We must now move to supporting schools in reaching their targets - a process of target-getting rather than target-setting."

But Mr Clark made it clear that targets were now a permanent feature of the educational landscape and he urged schools which had met their agreed targets to exceed them. "That is the way to improve attainment and drive up standards," he said.

Although Mr Clark came directly to the job after posts in New South Wales and the Department for Education and Employment in London, he stressed he was not intent on importing systems from elsewhere.

He was a senior education adviser in the standards and effectiveness unit at the DFEE but said he had no preconceived plan to replicate that model within the Inspectorate.

Interview, page 4

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