Culture change on the agenda

26th June 2009 at 01:00
Inspectorate gives schools self-evaluation package to improve their weaknesses

HMIE wants pupils to be given the chance to comment on the quality of their teachers, and teachers to observe their colleagues in class.

These are among a package of measures which the inspectorate is urging on schools so that they learn lessons gleaned from the 300 weakest ones inspected over the last three years. Reciting its familiar mantra of "self-evaluation, self-evaluation, self-evaluation", HMIE also suggests a rethink on teachers' professional development to encourage openness and learning together.

In its report, Learning Together: Lessons about school improvement, published last week, the inspectorate sets out key factors leading to improvement in schools which underwent follow-through reports after important or major weaknesses were found in their original inspections.

Nevertheless, 3 per cent of primary and 10 per cent of secondary and special schools inspected were still not at a satisfactory level after a second follow-through visit.

Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector, repeated the message he gave earlier this year at the launch of HMIE's major report Improving Scottish Education 2005-2008 - that, although it has many strengths, Scottish education has longstanding problems and there is a need for "further and faster improvement".

To strengthen weak leadership, HMIE recommends reciprocal visits, lesson observation by peers and promoted staff, asking pupils their views on the quality of teaching, and staff meetings to improve the tracking of action planning.

The most important lever for change in the schools which successfully improved their performance had to do with culture change, said Mr Donaldson. "All staff need to be committed to the challenge of raising the bar and closing the gap. As they work to implement A Curriculum for Excellence, there should be a realisation that it represents a new way of working."

There appeared to be little scope for staff to disagree. The report states: "Our evidence shows that acceptance by staff of the school's strengths and development needs, whether identified through inspection or self-evaluation, is a pre-requisite for improvement. In schools where staff do not accept the nature and extent of weaknesses in the school's work, improvement is significantly slower."

WHAT THEY SAID

"The inspection was a wake-up call. We had been led to believe that we were doing well. We were galvanised into action, and started to become more involved in talking about what we needed to do to improve." - Teacher in a special school.

"The original report made for uncomfortable and disappointing reading, but we recognised that we had to get on with improving things. We are pleased that we did. The school has been transformed. The children are achieving more than they did before." - Teacher in a primary school.

"We're so glad you came to our school. We were in despair about the state of the place, but nobody listened to us. We thought our futures were being ruined. Now we feel that we are part of the school. We are listened to. Look around, everyone is so proud to be part of it." - Secondary pupil.

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