Your school is failing, Ofsted tells four-year-olds in letter

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The Independent Online

School inspectors are writing to children as young as four, telling them they may fail in adult life because their teachers are not up to scratch.

In one letter sent to pupils at a Nottinghamshire primary, the inspector who visited the school wrote: "You are not reaching the standards you should in English, mathematics and science, and this means you are not well prepared for your future adult lives. Some of the teaching you receive is too slow and you spend too much time listening to the teacher instead of practising the skills you are learning, through exciting, purposeful activities."

It concluded: "Your headteacher needs to be clear about what the school does well and what needs to be improved, so that the correct action can be taken to put things right."

In another letter, children at a London school were informed: "Unfortunately, we found that your school is not as good as it used to be, or as it should be now."

The decision by Ofsted to revamp inspections and send letters to both parents and pupils, outlining its verdicts, provoked controversy when it was introduced three years ago. And now that the content of the letters has been seen by teachers' leaders, calls to scrap the idea have been renewed.

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NationalAssociation of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said they were "ridiculous, unnecessary and ill-conceived". She went on: "To cater for their target audience, these letters often oversimplify the outcomes of inspection and in doing so misrepresent the findings. The letters in effect give licence to pupils to question the professionalism of the school and its staff. They should be scrapped."

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations, said the letters were "uhelpful and can just make some precocious children even more precocious".

However, an Ofsted survey found that 70 per cent of headteachers were happy with post-inspection letters being sent to pupils, although some did suggest that the language used could be more appropriate for its target audience.

A spokeswoman for Ofsted said: "Where schools involve pupils in sharing the key messages of the letter sensitively and openly, they are a valuable tool in engaging pupils in both the inspection and subsequent school improvement."