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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 April 2006, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
School inspections 'humiliating'
School pupils
The NAHT condemned the practice of sending letters to pupils
Critical school inspections represent a "public humiliation", the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has heard.

The practice of sending letters to pupils describing the findings of the education watchdog Ofsted also came in for condemnation.

These were "patronising, condescending and supercilious", the NAHT said.

The letters gave children a "licence for bad behaviour", the conference in Harrogate heard.

'Persistent paranoia'

Delegates voted to oppose the "current punitive inspection regime that at its worst can be inspection by public humiliation".

There was "a need to create an inspection system that truly recognises and values the work of schools", it was argued.

Ofsted has changed the system to one of shorter-notice, quicker inspections, no more than three years apart.

Delegates heard that heads nearing three years since their last visit were in a "state of persistent paranoia".

David Kitching, from the Isle of Wight, said the new system created "instant judgements".

He added that Ofsted was a "bully" which was "there to promote short-term government objectives".

David Pannett, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, said he was quitting the profession in protest at the new regime.

It was possible to "ruin" schools in a couple of days, he added.

Delegates were also urged to "deplore" the sending of letters detailing inspection findings to pupils.

'Blanket criticisms'

A motion said: "At best, these letters are patronising, condescending and supercilious.

"At worst, the letters may expose and humiliate some teachers, while misrepresenting good individual teaching with blanket criticisms of the school."

It added that inspections were "undermining the human rights of all teachers in a school", which "flies in the face" of the government's respect agenda, aimed at improving young people's behaviour.

About three-quarters of head teachers agree that the post-inspection letter to pupils is helpful

Liz Paver, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, said she was "horrified" at the letters and prepared to strike in protest against them.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said the letters allowed better "feedback".

She added: "The letter to pupils is a new service offered by Ofsted under the new inspection system which, for the first time, lets them directly know about the outcome of the inspection of their school.

"About three-quarters of head teachers agree that the post-inspection letter to pupils is helpful."

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