Prof Colin Richards stands by his 1990s criticism of the schools regulator, Michael Pyke says it was set up to enforce a marketised system, and other readers give their views
Twenty-six years ago, following a contentious departure from Ofsted, I wrote an article for the Guardian (The high price of inspection, 3 June 1997). Little did I realise how high that price would be in terms of teachers’ mental health, ruined careers, demoralised schools, retention crises and, in extreme cases, individuals’ suicides (Punishing Ofsted regime is driving us out of education, say school leaders, 24 March). Doubtless many schools did improve as a result of Ofsted inspections, but some did not. Some schools benefited from, and gloried in, Ofsted accolades, but many did not. In the many negative instances, both children’s and teachers’ interests were poorly served.
I finished my article with: “There has to be a better way.” I still stand by that contention, and not just through removing misleading, simplistic overall grades. A better way can be found by drawing on the previous experiences of HM Inspectorate of Schools, abolished in 1992, and on inspection systems in other jurisdictions, including Wales. That will require political goodwill, as evidenced in Labour’s education plans, and determined but humane leadership once the current cloth-eared, ideological chief inspector steps down, or is forced to do so.
Prof Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria