Aspirational language

July 29, 2010

The idea that Quality Assurance Agency inspectors will report on "threshold standards" ("'Threshold standards' to be upheld when inspectors call", 15 July), when the term "threshold" by dictionary definition implies "a limit below which no reaction occurs", is misguided if not somewhat amusing, especially when "proactive" and "flexible" approaches are proposed to reassure the taxpayer via the use of "plain English".

The contradiction is so obvious as to render a vote of no confidence in the QAA. If, as stated, quality assurance needs to be better publicised and explained, then let's not talk about "thresholds". Even if a second definition of the term that implies an entry or starting point is applied, this would certainly not be acceptable to the likes of Ofsted (the second audit body referred to in the article).

If the QAA wants to inspire the public credibility ascribed to Ofsted, then its auditing language needs to be aspirational, with a focus on measuring student experience, student achievement and distance travelled during the period of study, rather than offering a judgmental statement of confidence (or otherwise) against standards that themselves are described in somewhat derogatory terms.

Liz Browne, Head of quality assurance and student experience, The Westminster Institute of Education, Oxford Brookes University.

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