Tories want to rein in Ofsted

1st September 2006 at 01:00
Teachers can expect fewer targets, less testing and an end to Ofsted naming and shaming if the Conservatives win power, the peer heading the party's education policy review indicated this week.

Baroness Pauline Perry, told The TES the Conservatives wanted to build a new partnership with the "best educated and trained teaching force in the world".

"There is a huge crisis of teacher morale," she said. "We can't improve education unless you have confidence and trust in teachers and treat them in way which improves their morale."

The joint chair of the Conservative public service policy group believes part of the solution is to reduce the way the Government uses test results to "peer over teachers' shoulders".

"What we are asking for is a much lighter regime of external testing," she said. "We are asking whether AS-levels are the right thing for young people and whether key stage 3 is right in its current form given that we have now got a real choice at 14."

Lady Perry acknowledged some teachers might find it difficult to trust the party that first introduced national testing, but said she was committed to winning back their confidence.

It will be at least a year before the shadow cabinet receives the review group's final recommendations and decides whether to adopt them as policy.

But an interim report released exclusively to The TES signals the direction the party is heading in.

The review will consider how to cut external targets and involve teachers more in setting them. This could be through a new national body of senior teachers, which would also disseminate research to the profession.

The policy group will also look at inspections. Lady Perry, a former chief inspector, believes the current Ofsted system is flawed, overly punitive and dysfunctional. "They (inspectors) are asking about exam results, test results, added value and so on," she said. "They are not asking whether any real learning is taking place."

She is also critical of the way Ofsted labels schools as failing. "They are living institutions and if you name and shame them you are saying something terrible about the kids in the school, never mind the teachers," she said.

"You are actually saying they are failures."

The group is also looking at whether teacher appraisals should be linked to pay, whether heads should be paid more and the future of the General Teaching Council. "We have been told by teachers that they don't feel they get value for money from it," said Lady Perry.

The review will also examine cutting bureaucracy, providing free transport to increase school choice and reviewing national curriculum content and choices for 14 to 19-year-olds.

And the most surprising thing Lady Perry has learned after six months of consultations with educationists, teachers, unions, employers and parents is "how much real commitment and motivation is left in the profession despite overwhelming evidence of how demoralised they feel".

* william.stewart@tes.co.uk

Teachers can contribute ideas to the Conservative policy review at: www.publicserviceschallenge.com

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