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The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy
"The report says inspectors are ill-informed about race equality"
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Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 05:16 GMT 06:16 UK
Ofsted 'failure' over school racism
Chris Woodhead
Chris Woodhead: Report based on "slender" research
A report by the Commission for Racial Equality says Ofsted, the body which monitors standards in England's schools, is failing to inspect and identify the effects of racism.

The study said the system was failing children from ethnic backgrounds.

The Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence set strict new guidelines last year, but Ofsted was not meeting them, it said.

Ofsted's chief, Chris Woodhead, hit back by saying the findings were flawed, but that he did accept some of the recommendations.

He said the report was based on "slender" research and contained serious inaccuracies.

CRE: Ofsted "failing" children from ethnic backgrounds
He acknowledged, however, that his inspectors needed racial awareness training and said that was due to begin this autumn.

CRE chairman Gurbux Singh said it was crucial that Ofsted take its responsibilities seriously.

He said the body would be a "vital tool" in helping implement legislation going through Parliament which placed a duty on the public sector to work for racial equality.

Among 31 recommendations aimed at Ofsted, the government and schools, the report urged ministers to give heads more money for ethnic monitoring and publicise Ofsted's new role.

Woodhead 'too busy'

It was based on interviews with inspectors, heads and 30 Ofsted reports in three local education authorities in England.

The CRE report also recommended:

  • Ofsted reports should include comments on racial equality in the section sent to parents
  • race awareness training should be updated
  • Ofsted should pay for interpreters when parents at pre-inspection meetings did not speak English.

The authors said they found most inspectors and head teachers did not appear to know about Ofsted's enhanced role following Macpherson.

They asked for an interview with Mr Woodhead while researching the report, but were told he was "too busy" to see them.

In a letter to Mr Woodhead, one of the authors, Professor Audrey Osler of Leicester University, asked whether Ofsted had sent out written guidance on its post-Macpherson role to inspectors.


He replied: "We do not rely on paper communication in Ofsted. Important issues are always a matter for discussion in division meetings."

Professor Osler also said one senior inspector had remarked: "Race equality is not a priority. Our priority is underachieving white boys."

Mr Woodhead reponded by saying he was surprised at the alleged statement.

"Our priority is underachievement, full stop," he said.

Another finding was that in more than 10,000 reports, the terms "racial equality" or "race equality" appeared in 0.25%.

Ofsted defended

But the word "bullying" appeared in 17% of the reports.

Mr Woodhead's response was that the words searched for "happen not to be the words used in the inspection framework".

"Our new framework, which the CRE have largely ignored, is geared-up, post-Macpherson to monitor how effectively schools ensure that pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds achieve their potential," he added.

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See also:

25 Feb 99 | Education
Blair backs lessons against racism
19 Feb 99 | Education
Education system racist - Ouseley
01 Jul 99 | UK Systems
05 Jul 00 | Education
Test results up at 'failed' school
21 Jun 00 | Education
Entire teaching staff quits
17 Apr 00 | Unions 2000
Ofsted accused over teacher stress
31 May 00 | UK
12m to tackle racism
10 Mar 99 | Education
Schools 'failing ethnic minorities'
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