Scrap Ofsted, say heads

31st October 2003 at 00:00
A call to scrap the Office for Standards in Education and create a new inspection system has been backed by school leaders.

More than 70 headteachers and senior staff have logged on to an online forum set up by the National College for School Leadership to debate the abolition of Ofsted.

As The TES went to press, 57 school leaders had supported scrapping Ofsted or expressed serious concerns about its work, while only seven defended it.

David Bell, chief schools inspector, insists that the new inspection system which started last month is a more supportive and "lighter-touch" experience for schools.

Yet this was not a view shared by many of the senior staff who described inspections this term which had left children in tears and teachers sick with stress.

One head wrote: "We found it was a painting-by-numbers exercise where categories were ticked off and then quickly glossed over to find something wrong. It was a very negative experience and only served to highlight areas that I was already tackling."

Another teacher wrote: "The process from receiving the letter to the inspection was horrendous. How many good teachers are the Government prepared to lose before something is done?"

Some of the teachers highlighted specific actions by the inspectors which they felt were unprofessional. One said that a lay inspector had requested the school give him advice on the Data Protection Act to help him with his private business. Another inspector was reported to have requested a disc with copies of the school's budget-planning spreadsheet so he could give them to his wife, who worked as a secretary at another school.

Only a few teachers were willing to defend Ofsted. One wrote that the inspectors' impact had been "tremendous" and "worthwhile". Another said:

"Contrary to the ogres I had been led to expect, they did come across as wanting to help the school and were genuinely pleased when our results this year showed that their assessment of our teaching was spot on."

The forum was inspired by an article by TES columnist Professor Ted Wragg, who said he had been surprised to receive an avalanche of support after proposing the scrapping of Ofsted.

David Bell said: "Ofsted has received positive feedback about the new framework, but we are still analysing schools' responses."

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