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Twiddle-twaddle in defence of the indefensible

If I had a lingering notion that the Office for Standards in Education might represent an independent voice in education it was dispelled by Chris Woodhead's contribution to the class-size debate, as I heard it on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Here was the inspectorate gratuitously at the beck of a beleaguered Government.

Coming from politicians, truisms such as "It's the quality of teaching that matters" can be seen for what they are: homespun twiddle-twaddle. Coming from the chief inspector, they attain gravitas and there is a danger that some people might think there is meaning lurking beneath the surface of banality.

To cite hundreds of OFSTED inspections as evidence in the debate is sinister. How is the general public to know the true purpose and status of an OFSTED inspection? How is it to know that such an event, while it has its uses, bears the same resemblance to the real life of a school as a studio publicity-shot has to the real life of an actor? That before the event, a school takes infinite pains to ensure that the stresses and strains created by such things as over-sized classes are minimised and disguised? That the relevant questions are not asked?

The chief inspector has been caught playing the politician's game of enlisting pseudo-science and phoney objectivity in defence of the indefensible, of lending his authority to the shameless employment of throwaway remarks like: "There is no research which proves that class size has any influence on standards."

Forget for the moment that there is such research - parents and teachers do not need it, when they have eyes to see.

I know of no research which demonstrates that being struck on the head with a 16lb hammer is bad for the health. I doubt if the chief inspector knows of any. Would he care to borrow my anvil?

JOHN McGILL 142 Monks Road Lincoln

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