School checks rescue plan condemned

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Plans to rescue the Government's failing primary school inspection system by recruiting teachers to do the work on a part-time basis are facing opposition from the profession, it emerged last night.

Headteachers are to be advised to take part in the scheme, which is designed to stave off a desperate shortage of inspectors.

The inspection body, Ofsted, still hopes to visit all the 19,000 primary schools in England by 1995, despite having had to cancel one-third of the inspections planned for this school year.

Attempts to recruit teachers and headteachers are among a number of emergency measures to solve the problem. Others include using Her Majesty's Inspectors, who used to do the work before it was privatised, and slimming down the inspections to concentratemainly on English, maths and science.

The teachers' scheme is due to be launched in January and training courses will start in March. But despite talks with all the teaching unions over the past two months, some of them still have strong reservations.

The National Association of Head Teachers will send out advice to its members on the plan in January. Jeff Holman, assistant secretary, of the NAHT, said headteachers could run into contractual difficulties if they took time off from their jobs to inspect schools elsewhere.

He also argued that the training being designed to turn teachers into part-time inspectors was likely to be inadequate. Some headteachers had been on the existing five-day training scheme but many had been told at the end of it that they had failed to reach the required standard, he said.

``We cannot advise our members to become involved. We could find it is much more helpful to Ofsted than it is to our members or to their schools. Our first task is running schools and teaching children,'' he said.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the NUT supported the scheme in principle but that it must be properly planned and backed up with supply cover for teachers while they were out of school.

A spokesman for Ofsted said that inspection work should prove to be valuable experience for teachers, even though the money they were paid for it would go to their schools.

``The fact that there has already been a lot of interest from headteachers indicates that they see some value in it,'' he said.