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Dear Madam,

On reading the recently published Ofsted results listing 32 "outstanding" schools, I would like to point out that the criteria used for these assessments are woefully inadequate.

First, those schools selected for this less than prestigious accolade seem to have been praised for features such as "drama and music" and "charitable activities". Are we to use the number of fetes a school has for Guide Dogs for the Blind to decide where to send our children? What happened to maths and English, subjects that are far more important but which fail to provide as impressive a soundbite?

Secondly, noting that the inspection report was taken into account in compiling the list, I would like to point out that inspectors often base an assessment of a teacher's entire career and ability on observation amounting to less than a single lesson. This can provide little insight into teaching standards, as I'm sure the 14,700 teachers labelled "poor" would agree!

Inspections cost an inordinate amount of money and offer little in the way of constructive criticism. A critic is someone who knows the way but cannot drive the car - the Ofsted inspectors seem to have lost their map.

Yours faithfully,

Harry Smith,

Sixth-form student,

Thomas Mills High School,

Framlingham, Suffolk.

I asked a child writing about a school visit to Loughborough if she could spell Loughborough. "Le o uh ger huh ber o rer o uh ger huh," she replied, correctly sounding each letter in turn. Happily, she could also spell it alphabetically. The chief inspector of schools is right to affirm the place of phonics in primary reading but clearly this tool itself can be over-used.

Educational problems stem from teaching poorly informed by training, insight, analysis or plain common sense.

Eggs have for far too long been heaped into single baskets. It will be desperately sad if more decades are wasted by another swing of the pendulum to practices discredited for their very rigidity.

Mervyn Benford,

Cloudshill Cottage,

High Street,

Shutford,

Banbury, Oxon.

Send your letters to Wendy Berliner, Education Pages Editor, 'The Independent', One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL. Fax: 0171-293 2056. Please include a day-time telephone number.

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