OU faces shame as Ofsted finds PGCE unacceptable

October 16, 1998

The Teacher Training Agency began the process of withdrawing accreditation from the Open University's teacher training programmes this week following publication of a damaging Ofsted report.

The report into the primary PGCE course was dismissed by the OU, which claimed the Ofsted inspection process was "flawed" and the findings "unsafe".

The report's publication comes two weeks after the OU announced that it had cancelled its primary PGCE course until the year 2001. It blamed mounting curriculum demands made by the TTA. The OU is also now considering withdrawing PGCEfor the year 2000.

Under TTA procedures the Open University is required to submit a recovery plan. The TTA board met on Wednesday to discuss withdrawal of accreditation. The OU told the board: "Withdrawal of accreditation would be a serious loss to national initial teacher training provision and limit the TTA's ability to meet the secretary of state's remit, particularly in areas of shortage secondary subject recruitment."

The OU has 843 students on postgraduate teacher training courses - 5 per cent of the national total. It said it was "very disappointed" by the TTA's decision. The Ofsted report finds that of 14 aspects of the course investigated, six are of poor quality.

The OU said it had reported "serious concerns" with Ofsted and the TTA about the selection of sample students for the inspection. It was also unhappy about the inspection methodology and the "unfair impact" of retrospectively applying new regulations midway through the 1997-98 course. The university will raise these concerns with the House of Commons select committee investigating Ofsted next month.

The OU also accused Ofsted of making "significant" changes to evidence reported in previous drafts of its inspection report.

The OU said it had not been given the opportunity to correct all the errors before publication of the damning report this week. Ofsted denies this and a spokesman said: "This is a fair and open system."

The OU says Ofsted inspected only seven of the 265 students on the course. Ofsted said the sample was balanced but the OU said it does not provide a statistically meaningful analysis.

Two other institutions have had their accreditation withdrawn by the TTA and 12 others have had to make improvements.

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