Just the cup of tea for an inspector

11th November 2005 at 00:00
David Henderson and Neil Munro report from the eighth Edinburgh Conference, organised by the City of Edinburgh Council and sponsored by The TES Scotland

Inspectors should spend more time in staffrooms, Eamon Stack, chief inspector of schools in Ireland, suggested.

Mr Stack was responding to Rory Mackenzie, headteacher of Balerno Community High in Edinburgh, who expressed "sadness" at the lack of time teachers have for dialogue. "It's very much a case of wham, bang, thank you mam when inspectors visit," Mr Mackenzie said.

Mr Stack agreed that inspectors should spend more time with teachers and said staffrooms were where the school temperature could be taken and the "school context" assessed.

But schools should also recognise that, while inspectors have expertise gained from visits to many schools, teachers are also experts and perhaps they do not acknowledge that often enough.

Mr Stack agreed that the term "rigorous inspection" has a negative tone, associated with "harsh treatment, dominance, even oppression". But, he suggested, high-quality evaluation must be about "rigorous procedures", although part of that ought to be about "affirming good practice" as well as being constructive about ideas for improvement.

The Irish system could be regarded as "hand-holding", Mr Stack said. "In many ways, teachers seem to want that."

One of the critical challenges for inspection, he concluded, was to "ensure that schools have the capability to manage change and development".

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