Call to take pressure off

7th December 2007 at 00:00
Heads of good schools should be spared the stress of costly three-yearly inspections that have gone past their sell-by date.

That was the verdict of Gareth Jones, secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru, as members of the teaching union gathered for their annual conference in Llandrindod Wells yesterday.

Education minister Jane Hutt faces a grilling today by delegates over funding - or lack of it - as the government's draft budget plans for education came under fire.

But in his opening speech yesterday, Mr Jones made school inspections top of his agenda and called for their complete overhaul.

He said they had to change, with more trust placed in teachers to become a truly independent service.

He cited two other key areas for 2008: securing sufficient levels of funding to see in the 14-19 Learning Pathways and the revised curriculum, and high-quality support services within local authorities.

Speaking at the town's Metropole Hotel, Mr Jones said contracted inspection teams should be sent to schools only if absolutely necessary. He said desk-based appraisals of schools' pre-inspection evaluations, based on self-assessment, exam results and local authority reports, should take place to establish if a visit was required.

Schools should be given three months' notice of a full inspection under the proposal, said Mr Jones.

"What is the point of continuing to inflict stress and incur considerable expense for an inspection team to merely confirm what the school or college already knows?" he said.

ASCL's national president Brian Lightman also spoke, setting 10 key challenges for the Assembly government over the next year, including an end to schools in Wales "being run on a shoestring".

He said good initiatives were in jeopardy through poor funding.

Incoming ASCL Cymru president Phil Whitcombe, head of Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School in Barry, spoke out against the per-pupil funding gap.

"I would like a fair and transparent funding system for all schools in Wales, directly equivalent to England," he said.

Next week: more coverage from the conference.

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