Teacher training is being "inspected to death" by schools' inspector Ofsted, higher education providers have told an all-party MPs' inquiry.
Critical assessments of Ofsted's role in teacher training have been submitted to the House of Commons education select committee by the Association of University Teachers and the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers.
The AUT, in a written submission, warned that "staff morale is at an all-time low in the colleges and university departments where school-teachers are trained". Inspection methods were "counter-productive" and often unfair, said the AUT, and "the inspection regime serves neither institutions nor their students well".
Central to the AUT's argument, supported recently by several university vice-chancellors, is that the Ofsted inspection regime is "tipped too far towards failure". Failure can be diagnosed on the basis of one student, said the AUT, and research has shown that the inspection framework gives institutions more than a 50:50 chance of failure.
"Judgements are subjective and outcomes are understandably seen to be unfair and punitive," said the AUT.
The AUT also argues that the Ofsted inspections "demand an inordinate amount of time to understand and prepare for", and are often too frequent. David Triesman, AUT general secretary, said: "Only the tax inspector is greeted with equal gloom and foreboding."
In its submission, UCET said that the inspection regime did not raise standards and was not cost-effective. "We have found the Ofsted/Teacher Training Agency axis to be a real obstacle to recruitment, innovation and quality enhancement," it said.
UCET has recommended that Ofsted's inspection of teacher training be much more closely aligned to the Quality Assurance Agency's inspection of other courses, and that the Teacher Training Agency should fund the courses in the same way as the Higher Education Funding Council funds others, with a less weighty link between funding and the inspections.
Ofsted said it recognises the dangers of over-inspection, and that future arrangements will be "less frequent though still rigorous". It also said that it is examining the costs and procedures of inspections in consultation with vice-chancellors.