LSU is victim of a 'gross injustice'

May 2, 1997

The decision of the Teacher Training Agency to withdraw Initial Teacher Training accreditation from La Sainte Union College (THES, April 25) is a gross injustice that reflects unfairly on the reputation of the teaching staff, school mentors and our students.

To respond to the criticisms made in the first Ofsted inspection report, the college produced a three-year action plan and legitimately expected it would be given time to complete its recovery.

The TTA and Ofsted were given the opportunity to comment on the plan. They said it was "staged and prioritised". At no time was the college told it was unacceptable and so had no reason to assume that this was the case. The plan was on course and had already delivered much of what it set out to do, a fact confirmed in the recent Ofsted report.

The inspectors commented favourably on the teaching of students by college staff. All aspects of work concerned with the design and content of training and the quality of the training process were reported to be at least adequate. More than half were graded as "good".

The report was critical of the college's ability to assess students accurately. We would contest this point.

Before inspection of students in their sixth week in schools in March, the college was asked to provide provisional grades. These were based on what students were achieving up to the second week of the practice. Assessment procedures were criticised because the inspectors' assessments did not agree with the college's data.

Anyone experienced in this type of assessment knows that most grades are likely to change over a four-week period. During the practice, some students were observed by educational experts, including an ex-headteacher, an inspector and an assistant county education officer. They supported the college's grades.

The findings of the Ofsted inspectors were also at variance with those of external examiners. They came from institutions approved by Ofsted and which have therefore been judged to be competent in assessing students. With one exception, they confirmed the college's assessments, commenting on the quality of many of our students and comparing them favourably with their own.

The standard of LSU students is reflected elsewhere. Of last year's leavers, 77 per cent of BEd and 91 per cent of PGCE students are in teaching posts. Headteachers welcome having our students on practice and have said they are willing to continue to take them. Many heads, deputies and teachers in senior positions in schools in the region were trained at LSU. It seems clear that, despite criticisms made by Ofsted, the college continues to turn out a good product.

The rules governing inspections were changed after our action plan had been drawn up. A new draft framework for assessment of quality in initial teacher training was issued on November 25 1996. Final details of how the framework would be used were not presented to the college until December 10, just six weeks before the first phase of the re-inspection. This had an adverse effect on the final report. For example, the college should not have been penalised for inconsistency in its internal monitoring and assessment because of procedures introduced halfway through the academic year.

The course inspected was the final cohort of the four-year BEd. that was produced to meet criteria demanded under 24/89 regulations. Many criticisms in the report are because aspects of the course did not meet the recently published criteria.

Proportionality, a fundamental principle of European law, requires that the remedy should be proportional to the cause. The removal of accreditation from LSU with its attendant disruption to students, loss of jobs, damage to relationships with schools, to the financial state of the college and additional costs to the state is not proportional to the problem.

In the Times Educational Supplement on April 25, Chris Woodhead was quoted as conceding that, in future, the Ofsted complaints procedure might contain an independent element. The inherent injustice in a body being its own judge and jury is unacceptable to us. We wonder how different the outcome might have been for LSU if an independent body had heard our case.

In the THES on April 25, Mary Russell stated that "... the TTA is not a professional academic body, it is a quango that has withdrawn accreditation. The precedent it sets is quite unique".

We hope that the reasons for our anger at the way LSU has been treated are clear. The points made above were part of the representation made to the TTA on April 10 to no avail. The invidious treatment of LSU has repercussions for all ITT providers.

Signed by 43 members of the academic staff

La Sainte Union College

Southampton

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