Memorandum from Professor Carol Fitz-Gibbon (NHMCI 06)
The following questions might be put to the newly appointed Chief Inspector of Schools:
1. Credible feedback should be anonymous. In his response to the call for "An external evaluation of OFSTED's methods". (Appendix II, Government's and OFSTED's response to the Committee's first report of session 2001-02). Mr Mike Tomlinson suggested that schools showed "a very high level of satisfaction with the way the inspections are carried out and with inspection findings." Might this apparent satisfaction be due to the fact that these responses are made by schools to OFSTED, not to an independent body, and that to express dissatisfaction can result in re-inspection? Would he support independent, external evaluation of the soundness of Ofsted's methods?
2. Three fundamental questions remain unanswered: How is the sampling of a school justified (eg hours of observation, days of inspection). What is the inter-rater reliability for inspectors and inspection teams? What evidence is there for the validity of OFSTED's judgment of classroom teaching?
3. The point of going to the expense of sending inspectors into schools on site-visits is to collect data not otherwise available. OFSTED proposes to send out Pupil Questionnaires but pupils' opinions are already surveyed by numerous organisations and the data are used by schools. Furthermore, how are pupils to respond to OFSTED questionnaires: with loyalty to their schools or honesty to OFSTED? Drop-in visits and random interviews are proper use of inspectors' time and public money. Does HMCI agree that duplicating methods of self-evaluation already in use in schools is not a justifiable use of public funds?
4. Classroom observation should be dropped. Given that classroom observations consumes 70 per cent of inspection time and has never been adequately justified in terms of sampling, reliability and validity, should it not be suspended and the money better spent? It is extremely stressful for teachers, special lessons are reserved for OFSTED's pre-announced visits and there is no knowledge base adequate to the task of judging effectiveness under current conditions. Would not the money (70 per cent of the cost of OFSTED site-visits) be better spent in schools, by schools, for pupils?
5. In the event of a teacher shortage, should OFSTED inspector's contracts require that they take up teaching positions as needed?
Professor Carol Fitz-Gibbon