The Tories intend to give OFSTED more clout, enabling it to inspect failing local education authorities in addition to its current inspections of schools.
Failing LEAs will be required to set out their plans to raise standards and work with education teams - directed by inspectors - to implement those plans.
OFSTED's structure would remain unchanged. Inspectors would continue with the national programme of inspections but with extra inspections where, for example, an LEA identified a struggling school. An LEA could request inspectors to carry out an emergency inspection.
Labour envisages a greater role for LEAs, although it is not in favour of LEA inspectors carrying out inspections of schools in their own areas. When inspectors identified a struggling school, the LEA would have to provide help to put it back on the right track.
The party is interested in promoting an element of school self-evaluation that would entail schools measuring themselves against their own targets. Such a system would be monitored by LEAs and OFSTED.
The Lib Dems approve of external inspection but want to replace the tendering system for registered inspectors with one with OFSTED-trained inspectors who would be paid on a national scale.
They advocate a faster call-in rate from school governors and LEAs when schools are having problems and believe all inspection teams should be led by an HMI.
Inspection should be linked to support. LEA advisers would be reinvigorated, and self-evaluation by schools would be promoted. Each school, as well as setting its own targets, would have to report on itself. The LEA advisers' role would be to check up on how the schools were doing in that job.