The work of OFSTED, the Office for Standards in Education which inspects schools in England, is to be evaluated from north of the border. The Quality in Education Centre at Strathclyde University has won the Pounds 25,000 contract in the face of competition from four other organisations invited to tender.
The team, which includes Walter Beveridge, recently retired depute senior chief inspector in Scotland, is to look particularly at the training of OFSTED inspectors and the effectiveness of the distance learning methods used.
Although the evaluation is to be completed by Easter, OFSTED insists that the short time-scale is not linked to recent adverse publicity about the attitudes in schools of some of its inspectors. There has also been continuing criticism of the effectiveness of OFSTED reports, which have been described by an education professor as "an embarrassment to anyone who understands social science".
Mr Beveridge will bring to the evaluation the long established practices of Scottish HMIs, who unlike OFSTED inspectors have remained part of the national education department.
The Quality in Education Centre is already involved south of the border in evaluating study support centres set up through the Prince's Trust. John MacBeath, the centre's director, is leading a major UK study of school effectiveness in collaboration with Peter Mortimore of the Institute of Education at London University. Ironically, Professor Mortimore is one of OFSTED's sternest critics.