Summer gadflies

20th June 2003 at 01:00
SOMETHING significant is surely happening when the arch-gadfly of the establishment finds himself in agreement with one of its leading players. The consensus between Cambridge University's John MacBeath and the HMI's Graham Donaldson (page six) was indeed significant for it probably highlights more of a shift in the emphasis of HMI-speak, if perhaps indeed HMI actions as well - ironically at a time when the inspectorate is poised to acquire potentially greater draconian powers than ever if the Executive's Bill on underperforming education authorities and schools bears fruit.

In reality, the inspectorate has always maintained that its mission is to combine the best of internal self-evaluation by schools themselves and external scrutiny by HMI. But in the real world it is the external inspection that has the upper hand: one has only to note the frenetic activity which precedes the calling of the inspectors, both in education authorities and schools, to realise what prompts and shapes evaluation in all its guises.

There is no doubt that the cries from schools are getting through. The pronouncements in the past few weeks, not just by Mr Donaldson on the importance of broad measures of achievement but also by Peter Peacock on exclusions, the overcrowded curriculum and the overly burdensome assessment regime, suggest that the schools' agenda is nearer centre stage than it has been for some time. The expectations having been raised, however, gadflies will expect delivery.

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