So unsatisfactory for Woodhead as his old watchdog bites back

25th January 2008 at 00:00
Perhaps he had it coming. Four years ago, Chris Woodhead offered the following view on teacher training inspectors employed by Ofsted, the organisation he once led: "I have always been sceptical of reports produced by Her Majesty's Inspectors and Ofsted's teacher training division.

"Too many of the inspectors were a product of the teacher training world; too few were prepared to question their own deep-seated assumptions," he wrote.

Now, education's most controversial figure is on the receiving end. The teacher training department he leads with Professor Anthony O'Hear at Buckingham University has been deemed only "satisfactory" by Ofsted inspectors - the second worst verdict available.

Professor Woodhead has launched an official appeal, perhaps more conscious than most that satisfactory is no longer good enough.

In 2005, Buckingham introduced a largely school-based Postgraduate Certificate in Education course, spurred on in part by Professor Woodhead's scathing views about conventional provision.

But inspectors were underwhelmed when they visited Buckingham's course in the 20067 academic year, The Times Higher Education revealed yesterday.

Ofsted's six-page report praised the intellectual challenge of the course's lectures and the positive effect of one of the two school placements offered. But other aspects of the school-based provision were not deemed challenging enough.

The report said trainees were not always given individual learning plans or set targets for improvement. Some over-generous judgments were also made about trainees' performance. In addition, the university did not have a coherent improvement plan to address the complaints and its quality assurance procedures "were not robust enough to have identified shortcomings in quality".

Only three students were on the course when inspectors visited.

Professor Woodhead said he was not able to comment because the university had registered a complaint with Ofsted.

He led Ofsted for six years from 1994 and had an explosive relationship with the profession from his first year, when he gave an interview to the Daily Mail that ran under the headline "Sack the useless teachers". He later claimed that 15,000 teachers were incompetent.

- A scheme to attract high-quality graduates to challenging schools is helping transform underperforming departments, Ofsted has found. Inspectors praised the two-year Teach First programme, which aims to recruit graduates who would not otherwise consider teaching.

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