Trainers attack OFSTED;News;News and opinion

10th December 1999 at 00:00
UNIVERSITIES today renewed their attack on teacher-training inspection, with a survey revealing that four out of five providers think the Office for Standards in Education's regime is unreliable and poor value for money.

UCET, the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, which carried out the study, called for a radical review of the system, saying it failed to fulfil OFSTED's slogan of "improvement through inspection".

The findings, from a survey of 150 course managers across the country, follow scathing comments about the cost and burden of inspections put to the House of Commons' education select committee earlier this year.

Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) said they had no confidence in the accuracy of the grades given by OFSTED inspectors. And 79 per cent said the inspections were not valid, reliable or consistent.

The report's author Jim Graham, who is also head of department at the school of education University of East London, said the process did too little to raise quality and was dominated by the Teacher Training Agency's grading scheme. The agency uses OFSTED's grades to allocate funding and places.

"Expert educationists are very dissatisfied with the way this system is working," he said. "They don't think it's improving teacher education in the way it was intended, and it has been counterproductive in workload."

More providers agreed than disagreed that inspection had improved their courses - 40 per cent to 28 per cent. Yet only 16 per cent thought it had improved the quality of new teachers, and a huge 82 per cent thought the frequency of inspections - every two years in secondary subjects - had not raised quality.

Universities also echoed schools' criticisms of OFSTED in failing to follow up their inspections. Three-quarters thought there was insufficient feedback, and 82 per cent thought OFSTED should be more pro-active in spreading good practice.

Universities have long criticised the system, which is not in the sector's tradition of academic freedom and peer review. They complain it was imposed without consultation - unlike the new quality assurance assessment framework which covers all of higher education.

The council said it wanted to work to improve the system.

A TTA spokeswoman said that since the survey was conducted in the spring, the agency and OFSTED had set up a working group to look at how the inspection process could be improved.

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