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Last Updated: Friday, 16 July, 2004, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Ofsted job cuts 'hit standards'
Ofsted says school inspections will be improved
Plans to lose 500 jobs at the English education watchdog Ofsted will damage the government's drive to improve state schools, a union says.

Ofsted is also reducing its regional centres from eight to three in an effort to reduce its costs by 40m over the next three years.

Unison, the public sector union, said this would cause a drop in standards.

But Ofsted said there would be no fall in the number of school inspectors and that efficiency would improve.

'Cuts, cuts, cuts'

Retirements and natural wastage would account for a "considerable proportion" of the job cuts.

Unison's head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said: "Forget about 'education, education, education'.

"What we are seeing is cuts, cuts, cuts. You cannot get rid of 500 jobs and not see standards drop.

"Ofsted has played a vital role in improving the life chances of millions of children and young people since it came into being 12 years ago, and that work must go on for the sake of the next generation of schoolchildren."

Unison is seeking talks with the government.

An Ofsted spokesman said cutting the number of regional offices from eight to three - in Manchester, Nottingham and Bristol - would "move resources closer to our own front line".

The London headquarters would also become smaller.

The spokesman added: "Far from standards dropping, under the new school inspection arrangements, which will come into play in September 2005 if we receive parliamentary approval, schools will be inspected twice as often as at present, with clearer reports being produced more rapidly than at present."

Ofsted has been asked to make cuts under as a result of the Chancellor's Comprehensive Spending Review.

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