Sting in the inspectors' tale

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
Diane Hofkins (TES, January 9) and others have pointed out the demoralising effects produced by David Bell's instruction that inspectors should no longer consider "satisfactory" as "good enough" when making their reports.

Nevertheless, she supports his intention to re-calibrate inspectors'

judgments. So do I. I notice too that Mr Bell will be outlining new inspection proposals next month. This could present an opportunity to mitigate these demoralising effects.

The Office for Standards in Education ought to re-consider at least two aspects of the current process. It should stop pretending to be able to judge changes in effectiveness since the previous inspection - a problematic enough notion without the radical change in calibration which is going to make many schools appear considerably less effective than when last inspected.

It should also re-consider the criteria it uses to indicate schools with serious weaknesses or in need of special measures. These may need to be less stringent for this inspection round until the new re-calibrated judgments are accepted and internalised by both inspectors and schools.

Otherwise schools deemed to be in difficulties because of the newly-calibrated judgments, are likely to feel very aggrieved and very demoralised at being judged adversely as they contemplate with some bitterness the overall judgments that would probably have been reported had they been inspected before last September.

Periodic re-calibration of inspectors' judgments is needed. Gaining acceptance from those being judged is bound to be difficult. If acted upon, my two proposals would take something of the "sting" out of re-calibration and give both inspectors and teachers time to come to terms with it. Or is Ofsted deliberately intent on inflicting a "sting"? .

Professor Colin Richards

1 Bobbin Mill

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

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