Schools get 20 days to respond to new evaluations

Schools will be granted 20 days to formally respond to the new whole-school evaluation reports before their publication on the internet, it was confirmed today.

To clarify further details of the new whole-school evaluation (WSE) process, Education Minister Mary Hanafin published guides informing management, teachers, parents and students on the procedures.

“These guides will help to demystify the school evaluation process and clarify the purposes of WSE. They provide a clear picture of the WSE process and how it involves all members of the school community,” she said.

“The emphasis in WSE is on a professional engagement about ways to improve the quality of education provided by our schools and on the approach of the Inspectorate to affirm good practice and work with the school staff to identify priorities for future planning.”

All aspects of the 4,000 primary schools and 700 secondary schools procedures and activities are open to scrutiny and a post evaluation meeting is then held with all stakeholders prior to the publication of a report.

Whole-School Evaluation has been implemented in primary schools in the past 18 months and is intended to be a much more comprehensive review of a school’s performance than the older General Inspection model.

Following the evaluation, further meetings are held with the board of management and staff of the schools to present the main findings from the evaluation.

After copies of the report are issued to teaching staff and the school, the board of management has the option of responding to it within 20 days.

The report, and any school response, will be published on the Department of Education and Science website.

Ms Hanafin has said the publishing of the reports would provide a fuller picture than the league tables which are viewed as damaging within the education sector.

During the evaluation, inspectors will meet with the board of management, parents’ representatives and the staff of the school before visiting classrooms.

Inspectors will evaluate teaching and learning throughout the whole school at primary level, while in secondary schools teaching in a range of subjects is examined. In secondary schools, the inspectors will meet with student council representatives to obtain their views.

Ms Hanafin said the guides on the evaluation process are available on the publications section of the Education Department’s website, and a printed guide will be sent to all schools.

Sean Cottrell, Director of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), has already said the new inspection regime was welcome but does not go far enough.

The IPPN said the system did not deal with instances where an individual member of staff was underperforming to the point where it affected learning in the school.

Mr Cottrell has also called for the appointment of an Education Ombudsman to provide independent analysis and adjudication on appeals which have not been satisfactorily heard within the Department of Education and Science.

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