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`Inconsistent' inspectors are a danger to us all

Does Sir Michael Wilshaw know how disingenuous he sounds when he says that "the charge of inconsistency has become a clichd defence mechanism" as "more than 90 per cent of schools report a positive experience with the process and outcome of their inspection" ("Ofsted is not the enemy - we're all on the same side", Letters, 19 June)?

I'll take more than 90 per cent to mean less than 91 per cent, (as I'm sure Ofsted, which is rather keen on data, will have very precise statistics at its bureaucratic fingertips). That means, in the eyes of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, it is OK for more than 9 per cent of schools to be less than satisfied. Think about the number of pupils affected and the number of teachers and leaders whose jobs have been put on the line as a result of that 9 per cent. His remarks are unbelievable for someone who trumpeted his arrival at Ofsted with pledges about "no excuses". Clearly he meant no excuses for schools but not for Ofsted.

Colin Sowter

Independent educational consultant and trainer

I'm not aware of many people who would claim that Ofsted hasn't achieved anything. I am aware of lots of people saying that more than 20 years after its formation, the watchdog needs to change its approach.

School improvement is now in the DNA of the system. What is required is for Ofsted to evolve to support the challenges that this new level of maturity brings. Sir Michael Wilshaw's letter does not imply that we will see that change soon.

David Rowlinson


Sir Michael Wilshaw is totally out of touch. As an experienced headteacher of an outstanding school, I can assure him that the profession certainly does see Ofsted as the enemy, not least in its unreliable judgements. The fact that 40 per cent of contracted inspectors are being let go ("Ofsted purges more than 1,200 inspectors", News, 19 June), is damning evidence of this incompetence.

It is easy to claim that school improvement has happened as a result of inspection. However, I'm certain that a more developmental approach - as seen in numerous successful education systems worldwide - would have had greater success while retaining some excellent (now long-departed) colleagues.

Name and address supplied

Yet again, special schools are singled out

I read the new draft of the school inspection handbook with amazement. Without warning or consultation, special schools are to be treated differently yet again.

Currently, even after several outstanding inspections with the same headteacher, we are not exempt from repeat inspections, unlike mainstream schools. Now, to disadvantage us even further, we are going to receive a telephone call at 9am on the day of the inspection. The lead inspector will then arrive on-site from midday onwards. Surely this is the no-notice inspection colleagues complained loudly about by another name?

I have been a national leader of education for many years - this means that my school supports others throughout the country and contributes to national policies. The changes to inspection will mean that headteachers are more cautious about travelling away from our schools. While we may have very capable leadership teams, we will still feel the need to be on-site to meet the inspectors.

We are receiving mixed messages about what is required of outstanding headteachers.

Lynn Slinger

Headteacher, Forest Way School, Leicestershire

A PhD is academic if you can't teach

Ann Mroz's excellent editorial on the merits of academic qualifications for teachers is to be commended ("Dishing up learning needs a talented chef", 19 June). In a 30-year career spanning the independent and state sectors, as well as inspection, I've seen Oxbridge graduates and PhD-holders who have in turns been inspirational and dire. It seems strange that the Sutton Trust assumes a causal link between a teacher's academic credentials and their pupils' outcomes, and equally strange that some schools downplay teaching qualifications despite being in the qualification business.

One of the best teachers I have ever known was Lee Westrope, who worked in the Cambridge area after dropping out of school at 14 and picking up academic qualifications later in life. He would dissect every lesson and discuss with pupils how he could help them further. It was a sad loss to the profession when he died in a motorcycle accident a few years ago. His approach was one shared by successful teachers throughout the country: always put the children first and adapt to their needs, rather than assuming that pupils will learn by magical osmosis in the presence of a PhD.

Neil Roskilly

Chief executive officer, Independent Schools Association

We must prioritise equality of education

Professor Alan Tuckett is right to focus on the issue of educating women in India and other developing countries, and to speak of the benefits of women's education for the next generation (" `No one left behind' must mean adults, too", Further, 19 June).

In India, female literacy lags considerably behind male literacy. Young girls often work long hours as domestic servants, and miss out on years of schooling as a result. But women who are literate and educated also become involved in children's education, as teachers and parents or through volunteering at their local school. We must prioritise the goal of lifelong education for all.

Shouvik Datta

Orpington, Kent

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