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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 17:08 GMT
Schools face 'warts-and-all' checks
David Bell
Mr Bell wants to see how schools are - 'not how they wish to be found'
Schools should be checked by inspectors much more frequently - but in a way that takes up less time, says the chief inspector of schools in England.

Ofsted chief David Bell is proposing that most schools be inspected every three years, rather than every six.

But rather than allowing weeks of preparation, he wants to give very short notice - two or three days.

Mr Bell said this would provide a "warts-and-all" picture of how a school was really performing.

'Short, sharp' inspections

"An inspection should see the school as it is, warts and all. I think that's what the parents want to see and I'm sure that teachers will appreciate that because they don't have to prepare endlessly in advance," Mr Bell told Breakfast on BBC1.

For parents it offers more up-to-date and relevant information about schools' performance
School Standards Minister
David Miliband

These "shorter, sharper" inspections would provide parents with more up-to-date information - and, he says, save schools up to 10 weeks of anxious preparation.

"Let's get teachers to spend their time teaching," Mr Bell said.

The inspections, which could come around twice as often as at present, would be more tightly focused, take up less school time and produce a shorter final report.

Instead of being a "long-anticipated trauma", inspections would become part of a more regular cycle and have less of a disruptive impact on school life.

It will just result in more experienced and dedicated teachers leaving the profession
Tim, Bromley, UK

Information for parents

The changes put forward by the education watchdog will be open to two months' consultation - and if they are adopted will be in place for autumn 2005.

The proposals have already been endorsed by the government and some head teachers.

"For parents it offers more up-to-date and relevant information about schools' performance," said the School Standards Minister, David Miliband.

It was right to seek improvements that would deliver a sharper focus, lighter touch and clearer link to school improvement, said Mr Miliband.

John Dunford, leader of the Secondary Heads Association, "strongly welcomed" the proposals.


"The very short notice period for the new inspections will be welcomed by the majority of head teachers and will save a very considerable amount of preparation time," said Mr Dunford.

However, the head of education at the National Union of Teachers, John Bangs, said he had "some deep concern" about aspects of the proposals.

"Teachers may feel continuously inspected, rather than having their professional judgement supported and trusted."

He said there would be "a note of compressed panic" if the notice period was shortened to 48 hours.

As an alternative, he suggested licensing local authorities to do inspections and provide support.

'Job half done'

There was also a cautious response from the National Association of Head Teachers, which described the proposals as "a job only half done".

While welcoming the reduction in time taken up by inspections, the union criticised the "poor quality of too many of the inspection teams".

The Liberal Democrats' education spokesperson, Phil Willis, backed the proposed changes.

"Successful schools need to be allowed to continue raising standards without too much outside interference," he said.

The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"They'll happen with little or no warning"

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