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Woodhead makes reassuring noises to FEFC

Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector for schools, has broken his silence on the further education reforms to be introduced in April 2001.

In a frank exchange of ideas with the Association for College Management, the controversial head of Ofsted hinted strongly that he will not interfere with the structure of the Further Education Funding Council inspectorate.

Under proposals in the Learning and Skills Bill, now progressing through Parliament, Ofsted takes control of inspecting all post-16 college students, while a new Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) will deal with post-19 and work-based education and training.

Three of the prime concerns among college leaders are that Mr Woodhead would dismantle the system where colleges appoint a "nominee" to the inspection team, that he would contract services out, and that the self-evaluation process would be abolished.

However, he has suggested that, while he would be inclined to modify the inspection regime, he was unlikely to call for such structural reforms. In particular, he ws disinclined to contract services out.

Instead, his main objective was to see more emphasis on teacher performance and student achievement. "Precise and open judgements about teaching are important," he told the association's winter council meeting in Chester.

All teachers whose classes are observed are likely to be informed of the grade awarded, but grades would never be attached to names in public reports.

Mr Woodhead also insisted that there must be a very close working relationship between Ofsted and the adult inspection service, which would create joint inspection teams where possible. He wanted to avoid excessive external inspection and its resulting bureaucracy. "It's quite unacceptable to have colleges burdened with two distinct inspection systems," he said.

The balance of inspectors in each team would depend on the nature of the institution. Sixth form college inspectors would be almost entirely drawn from Ofsted, while in more adult colleges they would come from the ALI.

Full report, page 20

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