Inspectors to spare good schools

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GOOD SCHOOLS may only be inspected every seven, 10 or even 12 years in the future, the chief inspector of schools said yesterday.

Chris Woodhead said schools that were succeeding could expect a "light touch" from Ofsted inspection teams.

"We want to make sure that the money we have is used to maximum effect," he said.

Ofsted has finished the first four-year cycle of inspections of all English secondary schools, and will soon complete its first primary cycle.

Two years ago, the Government decided that the second round of inspections should take place once every six years, unless schools were giving cause for concern.

Speaking at a local education authority conference in Buxton, Derbyshire, Mr Woodhead said the frequency of inspections was being reviewed.

"We decided at that stage that it would be a step too far to change the nature of the inspection as well," Mr Woodhead said. "But we have now decided to revisit both of those decisions. Is six years the right length of time between inspections? We are open-minded about that.

"We have also to revisit the issue of whether it is desirable to introduce a lighter touch model of inspection for schools where things are improving or where high standards have remained consistent."

Any move to cut the number of inspections faced by schools will be warmly welcomed by teachers. The pressure of Ofsted inspections were a central complaint of staff who won a cut in classroom red tape last month.

Mr Woodhead said the inspectorate was reviewing its operations in the light of its new responsibilities. Ofsted now inspects schools, nurseries, teacher training colleges and local education authorities.

If there was to be a change - in line with the Government's principal of intervention "in direct proportion to success" - Ofsted would depend, Mr Woodhead told the conference, on local education authorities to raise the alarm about problems in schools.