Inspectors ask pupils to judge their schools

23rd October 2016 at 18:01
Pupils to judge schools
Pupils must be involved in conversations about teaching quality even if some staff find it difficult, says inspector

Pupils should be involved in evaluating the quality of the teaching that takes place in their school, inspectors have said.

In Scotland, school inspections this year will have an increased focus on how well schools engage with pupils – and their parents – after the criteria upon which schools are judged were updated.

The update came with the publication of Education Scotland’s latest version of its school self-evaluation tool, How Good is Our School? 4 (HGIOS 4). A forthcoming child-friendly version of the document, due to be published early next year, will set out how students can get involved in actually evaluating their teaching.

Pupils will become “actively involved in shaping their education and provide teaching staff with valuable insight”, according to officials. Children’s judgements on their schools will not be used by inspectors to form overall judgements, but are expected to provide useful information for teachers.

Schools inspector Patricia Watson outlined the changes at a recent workshop. While there had been recent improvements in the area of pupil voice, she said, too often lengthy pupil consultations were carried out that never led anywhere or students were asked to comment in dialogue that stopped short of discussing learning and teaching.

Young people should be involved in conversations about “the nuts and bolts of what is really important and impacting on their attainment, achievement, wellbeing and skills development”, she said.

There will be teachers who find it difficult and who say they don’t want pupils telling them how to teach or questioning their teaching, she acknowledged. But a school in Angus has shown that it can work, Ms Watson said. There, pupils observed lessons and gave feedback after designing their own version of HGIOS 4, called Wee HGIOS.

But the idea of pupils judging lessons has not been welcomed universally. The proposal was “nonsense” and had the potential to undermine teachers’ authority, Seamus Searson, the general secretary of the SSTA teaching union, said.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, meanwhile, said that pupils carrying out “crits” of teachers’ lessons was unacceptable; he questioned whether they would have the skills to evaluate what was going on. However, feedback from pupils was welcome, he added.

This is an edited version of an article in the 21 October edition of TESS. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. TESS magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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