Guidelines set out for new school inspectors

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The Independent Online
SCHOOLS will be judged on criteria ranging from exam results to pupils' understanding of right and wrong, according to government guidance to its new inspectors published yesterday. Parents' contribution to schools, including their attendance at functions, will also be evaluated.

Inspectors should spot failing schools, the consultative document says, by poor academic standards, regular disruptive behaviour and serious truancy, demoralised staff and an ineffective and insensitive head.

Thousands of new inspectors whom the Government hopes to recruit by a national advertising campaign will have to adhere to the criteria to carry out ministers' plans for more regular inspections of schools.

Private groups will replace local authority inspectors and Her Majesty's Inspectorate is being reduced in size. The Government wants to recruit 200 team leaders or registered inspectors by September. They will receive 10 days' training before organising groups to inspect secondary schools from autumn 1993. New primary school inspectors will begin work the following year. Team members will receive five days' training.

Ministers expect existing inspectors, teachers, management consultants and lay people to apply for jobs in the teams which will together inspect 6,000 schools a year. Teams will have to tender for inspections at between pounds 5,000 for a small primary school and about pounds 30,000 for a large secondary school.

They will have to watch for bullying, racism, high staff turnover and for schools where parents and teachers have lost confidence in the head. They will also have to consider whether a school has enough resources, for example by comparing the spending per pupil on books and equipment with national and local averages.

Professor Stewart Sutherland, who will be Chief Inspector of schools from September, said: 'We have to have an inspection system that has national credibility, applying comparable criteria and looking for comparable standards across the nation.'

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: 'Anybody who thinks that a framework document, however detailed, will ensure consistently high standards and that five-day training courses will fit people to undertake the very responsible job of school inspection must be living in cloud cuckoo land.'

Despite the Government's refusal to adjust tables of exam results to take account of pupils' social background, the inspectors will be expected to consider schools' intake when commenting on exam results. Professor Sutherland said if the inspectors found deviations from the national norm they would have to ask whether that was because the school was in a deprived area. Pupils' awareness of social issues and their willingness to exercise responsibility should be examined alongside their academic work. In this context, parents' involvement in the school should be noted.

Leading article, page 26

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