Estyn under pressure to change inspections

Teachers council wants continuous self-assessment not snapshot visits

Teachers have backed a call by the General Teaching Council for Wales to overhaul the inspection system, ending "unhelpful" numeric grading of schools and the use of privately contracted inspection teams.

Estyn, the Welsh inspectorate, is ready to launch a consultation on its system, but the teachers' regulatory body has publicly released its recommendations a month early.

The council claims the inspection regime places undue stress and increased workloads on teachers. It proposes that Estyn should move from "snapshot" inspections once every six years to an "ongoing service review" based on schools' own assessments of their progress.

It also proposes replacing privately contracted inspection teams with teachers seconded from classrooms to work at Estyn.

Richard Jones, headteacher of Ysgol Derwen primary in Flintshire, is busy preparing for an inspection in 12 months' time.

"I would be fully behind something that's a lot shorter and more self- evaluated, he said. "It would be beneficial from a stress level point of view."

Welsh medium Ysgol Bro Morgannwg, in the Vale of Glamorgan, is also facing inspection this November. Its headteacher, Dr Dylan Jones, said: "Inspections should be a natural process for schools. I welcome the idea of self-evaluation being at the core of the process."

Teacher unions in Wales already agree that lighter-touch inspections, introduced in England in 2005, are the way forward.

Gareth Jones, secretary of Association of School and College Leaders Cymru, said: "We need to build on self-evaluation as well as a team of professional inspectors who analyse data to see whether the school actually needs to be inspected at all."

Dr Philip Dixon, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said inspections need to be more useful. "It's not about stigmatising failure but wanting schools to improve."

Estyn has been reviewing its inspections since November last year in preparation for changes coming in 2010.

It is discussing initial proposals with stakeholders during this autumn term and will hold a public consultation next spring.

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