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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
'Radical' reform for inspections
Mike Tomlinson
Mike Tomlinson is considering a new approach for Ofsted
By Gary Eason at the NASUWT conference in Jersey.

The reform of the Ofsted system of inspecting England's schools could be "very radical indeed" - possibly involving a 10-year cycle of inspections.

At present schools are routinely inspected every six years or four if there are concerns about their performance.

Konrad Machej
Konrad Machej criticised the style of the previous chief inspector, Chris Woodhead
A shake-up of the system which is dreaded by many teachers was announced recently by the new chief inspector, Mike Tomlinson.

The radical nature of what he has in mind was revealed at the annual conference of National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).

The conference was debating a motion which called for the "immediate suspension" of inspections pending fundamental reform of the system - backed by a threat of industrial action.

Demands on the table

The union's immediate past present, Martin Johnson, told delegates that he would have supported it until recently.

But he added: "Times have changed."

He said he had held informal talks with Mr Tomlinson recently.

"Within weeks he will start a consultation on options for the radical reform of the inspection system. And some of those options will be very radical indeed."

All the union's demands for changes were now "up for grabs".

Some of the changes would require legislation but Mr Tomlinson expected that to happen by the autumn, he said.

"For example, a 10-year cycle of inspections might be on the cards: Just imagine what that would do in raising the morale of our members."

'Pyramid of disaster'

How badly that morale has been dented was made plain in the debate in the conference, which went on to pass an amended resolution complaining about the time-consuming, stressful and frightening nature of inspections.

Konrad Machej from Suffolk denounced the "misrepresentation and, dare I say, abuse" of the teaching profession that had come from the former chief inspector, Chris Woodhead.

Mike Tomlinson seemed "more open", he said. But changes were still necessary because the present system had "dire consequences" for teachers' stress levels, driving many out of the profession.

There were he said tens of thousands of "Ofsted casualties" in a "pyramid of disaster" from suicide down through teachers who had been hastened to their deaths, those who had left due to ill health and those who had simply moved to other jobs.

"Thousands more are surviving but in dread of the next Ofsted," he said.

Others called Ofsted "an abomination" and spoke of the "massive demotivation" of staff and of pupils when a school failed an inspection.

The BBC's Enver Solomon
follows the impact of an inspection on Norbridge primary in Worksop, Nottinghamshire
See also:

11 Apr 01 | Education
01 Dec 00 | Education
09 Feb 01 | Mike Baker
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