Professor Stewart Sutherland, head of the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), said local authorities should do more to inform parents about the kind of education they should expect. This would enable parents to respond to criticism with more than simple emotion.
'Without such advice, parents will be shocked by the news that their school is failing. They will jump to defend their school, not least because acceptance that their child attends a school providing a poor education is a reflection on them as well as on the school.'
It was natural and commendable that parents should rally round their local school when it appeared to be under fire, he said. 'But their support would be more valuable if it was based on a clear-eyed view of the school's performance rather than on emotion.'
He told the Cambridge Educational Associates' conference on under-performing schools that inspectors had more than just a monitoring or reporting function. They also aimed to bring about improvement in schools.
'Inspection by itself can never be a sufficient condition for improvement but it is a necessary condition. It has a key role where it is done well and the most is made of it.'
He said that in recent years schools identified by inspectors as showing cause for concern had made substantive improvements, and taken themselves off the danger list.
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