More schools face criticism by new inspection regime

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The Independent Online

In a interview with The Independent, David Bell, the head of the education watchdog Ofsted, admitted that schools should prepare themselves for the biggest shake-up in the history of inspection, which comes into force this month.

Coasting schools in leafy middle-class areas with reasonable exam results may be shocked to find that they fail the new-style inspections unless they can demonstrate how they have improved. Schools that have failed to tailor their teaching to the needs of different groups of pupils, such as boys or ethnic minority groups, could also find themselves penalised.

"We have not made any secret of raising the bar and I make no apologies for it," Mr Bell said. "There are good reasons for that. The education system in 2005 is very different from when Ofsted was set up in 1992

"We have no quotas [for schools that will fail]. That's going to depend on them. Our pilot has identified some schools which have gone into special measures. It does demonstrate that the new system of inspection is capable of capturing the whole range of performance. This is not inspection gone soft."

Mr Bell said that the new system would continue to look beyond raw exam data and challenge schools with average results that should be performing better but would ask "even more searching questions" than the old system.

"Schools which have sought to be on the path of continuous improvement have nothing to fear from the new regime," he said.

"It is about the progress that schools have made and how they compare to other similar schools. Schools should be asking themselves have we tapped into how to boost the performance of different types of pupils in the school."

More than 900 schools will be inspected under the new regime of shorter, sharper, and more regular inspections - three-yearly rather than every six years.

Headteachers will typically get two days' notice of an inspection visit compared with the current 10 weeks, which has been criticised as overly stressful for teachers while allowing schools time for panicked preparation - rather than allowing inspectors to see schools as they really are.

Institutions will be graded on a four-point scale rather than the current seven.The new regime has also provoked the ire of the teachers' unions by allowing pupils to report their views of teachers to inspectors.