Reform inspections, teacher trainers demand

Senior academics have met to launch a campaign against Ofsted, prompted by a letter in Education+. Ben Russell reports
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The inspection of teacher training should undergo radical reform, an influential group of academics has recommended.

Senior figures from six leading teacher training courses urged the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, to launch an urgent review of teacher training inspections, amid claims that they are "out of control".

Recommendations, drawn up at a meeting at the London University Institute of Education, include proposals for a new code of conduct for the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) to cover teacher training.

Academics want Ofsted to work more like the system of inspection for other university courses, which rely heavily on self-assessment. They are also demanding extra training for inspectors and a guaranteed four- year gap between inspections.

Professor Peter Mortimore, director of the institute, called the meeting in a letter to The Independent last month amid concerns about the inspection system.

Universities are worried about the frequency of inspection and the pressure inspectors put on academics and students.

They also complain that inspectors are not consistent, arguing that judgements on the quality of courses are made on the basis of limited evidence.

Professor Mortimore said universities at the meeting were reluctant to be identified, but represented mainstream opinion in the profession.

He said: "It was a group of people who feel the current situation cannot go on. It's not right, and it's having a serious effect on teacher education and our partner schools; the number wanting to get out is incredible.

"We are not against inspection, but the system is out of control. You have a group of people determined to find fault and are determined to make up the rules as they go along."

Professor Mortimore said academics would be urging Mr Blunkett to reform the inspectorate in line with joint recommendations from bodies representing vice-chancellors, principals and staff working in teacher training.

Inspectors reject the criticisms, arguing that criteria for inspectors are published, and say colleges themselves asked for every institution to be inspected in full.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: "We set up a working party with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and our representative will raise these points with the group. Peter Mortimore was invited to join the group but he declined the invitation. Many of the points raised are already published and have been under discussion by the working group."