Letter: School inspectors fail the test

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The Independent Online
School inspectors fail the test

Sir: You report (1 February) that fewer than 1 per cent of teachers "can't teach". In my experience of Ofsted as a parent, the inspector can't inspect, and the Ofsted questionnaire for parents doesn't ask the simplest and most obvious question.

I have two sons at Pimlico School. Three weeks ago I was at a well-attended meeting for parents held as part of the school's current Ofsted inspection. The inspector found it hard not to interject. As rapporteur he trivialised important points. His idea of structuring the meeting was to seek out criticism of the school - which generally wasn't forthcoming.

In his manipulation of the parents' meeting, the inspector's approach echoes the questionnaire. This takes the form of 12 statements with which the respondent is invited to agree or disagree on a five-point scale. Not one refers to the performance of the school as a whole. Not one raises the simple issue: "The school is doing a good job. Agree or Disagree?"

The questionnaire design makes it impossible for respondents to acknowledge the obvious fact that schools don't operate in a vacuum. For example, at Pimlico as elsewhere, parents take views on the setting of homework in the light of what they know about the availability of textbooks and other resources. But the inspectorate seems to assume that parents are too dim to understand such qualifications.

Are Chris Woodhead and his inspectorate capable of listening?


London SW2