Ofsted gives low mark to ex-chief

Chris Woodhead's education department rated as just 'satisfactory'. Melanie Newman reports.

January 24, 2008

The Office for Standards in Education has published a critical report on the university education department led by its former head, Chris Woodhead, and the former government education adviser Anthony O'Hear.

Ofsted has given Buckingham University a "grade 3", just above "inadequate" on a four-point scale, after an inspection of the department - which trained just three secondary schoolteachers last year.

Professor Woodhead, who was Ofsted's chief inspector of schools from 1994 to 2000, has launched an official appeal against the verdict of the inspectorate he used to run. It is understood that earlier complaints from Buckingham's department may have already led to some revisions of the inspection report, but Ofsted has not improved the grade 3 "satisfactory" rating.

The report, which is the first since Buckingham began courses for state schoolteachers in 2005, found:

- Quality assurance systems were "not robust enough to have identified shortcomings in quality";

- Inconsistent use of joint observation during assessment resulted in "some overgenerous judgments";

- Feedback by staff did "not always have a clear focus or generate targets for improvement";

- Prior learning was not formally accredited and individual needs not targeted sufficiently.

External consultants had previously cited areas for improvement, including introducing written selection criteria, improving trainees' knowledge of the 14-19 vocational curriculum and producing an improvement plan. The report said the recommendations had "not been implemented effectively".

Although Buckingham has been offering the postgraduate certificate of education only since 2005, it has been training teachers for the independent sector since 2003.

Professor Woodhead declined to comment. Terence Kealey, Buckingham's vice-chancellor, said he was "fiercely determined at Buckingham not to go down the managerial route of every other university", so he allowed Professor Woodhead and his colleagues to "run themselves without unsolicited interference".

"They're appealing by Ofsted's standard process. It would be wrong to comment until that process is complete, so I'm following their line," he said. Apart from bringing in the National Student Survey, the education department was "the innovation at Buckingham of which I'm most proud," he added.

An Ofsted spokesman said: "Ofsted carried out a full inspection of secondary initial teacher training at Buckingham during the academic year 2007. The main inspection judgment gave the institution a grade 3. This was the first such inspection, and so the grade does not reflect any changes in standards."


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