Inspection of schools a burden

4th July 2008 at 01:00
Is the inspection system in Scottish schools about compliance and not education?

Is the inspection system in Scottish schools about compliance and not education?

A call has gone out for some scrutiny of HMIE and what it contributes to the school system in Scotland. I would like to look at the waste involved in our system, based on a mountain of specifications, targets, standards, reports and guidance. Public sector employment and costs have increased, due to the number of people needed to produce these documents.

To ensure schools are complying with government specifications, inspectors have to be trained, thus more checklists and procedures are put in place.

The amount of time and money spent in preparing for inspection is a burden on a school's resources. The running of a school, a department and class teaching is diverted to the questionnaires, lists and evaluation sheets. Staff are told how to behave when the inspectors are in and how to ensure inspectors find what they are looking for.

Compliance (using legislation and fear) with the requirements of the inspectors may prove your department, school or authority is "very good". But are these principles sound? Do our educationalpolitical masters hand specifications to schools based on rigorous and proven knowledge? How much of a pupil's future prospects are wasted by staff working to flawed documents?

The most worrying waste is the effect on morale. Many staff feel they are being pushed in the wrong direction by the compliance regime, but to raise questions is seen as a neo-conservative reaction and staff demoralisation sets in.

Most teachers want to do what is best for the children. Inspection should help them find and use the best methods to improve their work and produce the best outcomes. Are teachers and managers working on how to improve and understand their roles?

Compliance with flawed ideas and fashions stifles innovation and ignores the real needs of the children we teach.

James Waugh, Nether Currie Crescent, Currie, Edinburgh.

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