First school reports published but parents need ‘wider package’

PARENTS have welcomed the publication of school inspection reports for the first time, but said a wider package of information to allow them compare schools should also be available.

National Parents Council — Primary (NCP-P) chief executive Fionnuala Kilfeather said Education Minister Mary Hanafin must ensure the reports give parents meaningful information and a rigorous appraisal of the work of their children’s schools.

The first 23 reports of whole school evaluations (WSEs) were placed on the Department of Education website overnight, after objections from primary teachers were satisfied in recent days, with an appeals procedure for those who are unhappy with the content of reports.

The WSE reports give a snapshot of a school’s performance in areas such as curriculum delivery, involvement and consultation with parents, school planning and policies on discipline, enrolment and special needs provision.

They may also include an inspector’s comments on staffing levels and class sizes, facilities and building requirements, and other ares which may need improvement through department resources.

But Ms Kilfeather said parents need to be able to compare schools so they can make the best possible choice for their child, but without using league tables.

“Clearly, parents need a package of information which will include how a school will cater for children of a wide range of abilities, aptitudes and interests. This includes information about the schools programmes and achievements in the Leaving Certificate,” she said.

Ms Hanafin said a further 36 inspection reports will be published by the end of next week and every eight to 10 weeks after that.

“The reports provide a balanced and fair assessment of the work of schools and the way they seek to meet the learning needs of their students. The schools themselves also have the very important right of reply, which is published alongside the report,” she said.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) accused the Minister of politicising the publication of reports to deflect attention from the petition of 200,000 parents about class size, which wsa presented to her department yesterday.

“There appears to be an indecent haste to get some reports up on the web ... The obvious questions is, ‘What’s the rush?’, if not to try to distract attention,” said INTO general secretary John Carr.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland general secretary John White said the WSE reports show schools performing to a high standard and that their performance is accountable and transparent.

“Parents can be confident that schools are providing an excellent education, which is recognised internationally,” he said.

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