Why is Ofsted wasting money on inspections of schools that clearly have no real problems, when the funds are needed elsewhere?

Personally Speaking by Roy Bland
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The Independent Online
Our school has undergone a week-long inspection by 14 Ofsted inspectors, at a cost to the taxpayer of thousands of pounds - and I don't know why.

The school, a 700-pupil comprehensive, was told some months ago that we were to be inspected. One day in, the registered inspector leading the team came to speak to teachers. In the evening he chaired a meeting of parents.

In the course of explaining to staff how the inspection would proceed, the inspector said that from judging what he had seen against criteria he did not specify, he already knew that he would not be failing us.

The meeting of about 90 parents, which included some teachers who have children at the school, was very supportive of the school. Indeed, although the inspector probed to elicit negative responses, he failed.

The parents solidly expressed the view that they were very happy and satisfied with their children's education. They said that they were getting value for money - and some wanted to know if they would get the same from the inspection. Why, they were asking, is this school having a full inspection, when you know already that it is a good school?

The inspector had other evidence of the school's performance. Ofsted had sent questionnaires to our parents and the returns showed that on all questions, more than 80 per cent of parents were satisfied or more than satisfied with the school.

A final piece of evidence was the school's public examination results. These show a yearly improvement, this year exceptionally so, making us one of the top schools in the county.

Our parents' question is important and needs an answer from Chris Woodhead, the Chief Inspector of Schools.

Because here was a school obviously doing well, with plenty of evidence to prove it, and yet we were subjected to a full inspection at enormous public expense. Fourteen highly paid professionals spent almost 50 man- hours in our school during the inspection week. This must be a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money.

Anyone with experience of schools and education, and armed with the sort of evidence our inspector had, should be able to say with confidence that such a school has no real problems. The inspection could be reduced to a two-day visit by one or two inspectors who might offer advice where the head teacher or the inspectors felt it was needed. Part of the money saved by not having to make a full inspection could go to the school as a reward for its good work. The rest would be used by Ofsted for more frequent and deeper inspections of failing schools, and for supporting them with extra resources or re-training of their staff.

. I believe that a streamlined Ofsted inspection programme can play a more decisive role in improving our schools. Ending the present wasteful programme of full inspections for all schools is the essential first step towards that goaln

The writer teaches in the West Country

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