Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Mr A Quinn (SQE 03)

  I am an inspector and offer these observations from first-hand experience. The emphasis of inspections has changed since the new Handbook was issued in January 2000. Inspectors are now under pressure from OFSTED and schools and are now almost apologetic in approach for fear of upsetting someone. I have heard schools describing an OFSTED inspection as free consultation. There is far too much emphasis on regular feedback and negotiation in the course of an inspection. Inspectors are losing their objectivitity as a result.

  The Framework requires that we are objective and impartial but the procedures make these difficult to achieve. Inspectors are in schools to observe first and then to make judgements. The main and considered feedback should come at the end of that and should be separate from the initial inspection process. Time should be set aside after the week of inspection if consultation is required and inspectors should be paid a fee for such work.

  OFSTED makes unrealistic demands on inspection teams. The process is fundamentally flawed because inspectors have to cut corners to try to obtain objective evidence. The constant reference to teachers, through feedback and discussions that the Handbook envisages, impedes the process further.

  An additional point is a complaint. OFSTED regularly introduces new requirements in the inspection process with obligatory training required. Inspectors are not able to practise without this and yet they are expected to pay for it themselves. This can amount to £200, with expenses, for a single day of training.

    —  Government claims, on basis of improving OFSTED reports, that standards in schools are rising are misleading.

    —  The nature of inspections has changed.

    —  The changes in the Handbook of 2000 have led to less objectivity by inspectors.

    —  The largest single factor in this is the requirement to feedback to teachers immediately (or soon after) after a lesson is observed.

    —  Many inspectors are now grading teaching higher than they did previously because of the potential confrontation with teachers.

    —  Much unsatisfactory teaching is now graded as satisfactory. The last OFSTED review states that only one in 20 lessons is unsatisfactory now. This dramatic improvement in so short a time is not credible and supports my contention that inspectors are less objective in their judgements on teaching and learning.

    —  The statistics of these higher teaching grades thus recorded mean that other factors, such as pupils' progress, attitude etc have to be correspondingly raised to support the inflated teaching grades.

    —  Many anomalies in the first-hand evidence have to be adjusted to make both the report and the profile in the Judgement Recording Form (JRF) coherent.

    —  The grades in the JRF reflect the adjustments rather than the true picture, in many cases.

    —  OFSTED statistics depend on these inaccurate grades in the JRF and are therefore flawed.

    —  The objectivity of inspection can be restored by an arm's length approach.

A Quinn

March 2001

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