Inspectors' fears over bias

Secondary Heads conference: Prime Minister attacked for using education as political pawn
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The Independent Online
Several members of Her Majesty's Inspectorate have resigned in the last four months because they fear school inspector's independence is under threat.

Colin Richards, one of those to leave, 10 days ago accused Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, of distorting statistics to further his attack on progressive teaching methods in primary schools.

He said last night that he believed others had also left because they feared that the inspectorate's traditional independence was being compromised by Ofsted, the new Office for Standards in Education set up by the Government three years ago. Several HMI who were still at their posts were equally unhappy, he believed.

He said: "There is a worry that the traditonal professional independence of the inspectorate is being put at risk. There is concern about how far the inspectorate has been damaged by the partial use of inspection evidence well in advance of the publication of reports."

A report on class five, and figures in the chief inspector's annual report showing that half of primary schools needed to improve, have both been used by critics to attack Ofsted for political bias.

Members of HMI complained to the First Division Association of top civil servants after Mr Woodhead wrote a pamphlet for a right-wing think tank.

Ten inspectors have left during the last four months but only about four of the departures are thought to be connected with dissatisfaction with the current regime.

Ofsted, which has denied Mr Richard's allegations, said there had always been HMI who resented the new system and the change to their way of life. A spokesman said that there had been a programme of voluntary redundancy because the office was required to reduce the number of HMI. The vast majority of those who left had gone to other jobs. Mr Richards left after he was not given the job he wanted.

Both Mr Woodhead and Ofsted strenuously deny any political bias.

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