Our best for their future

17th February 2006 at 00:00
Respected for its model of self-evalution, Scottish education aims to stimulate fresh thinking, give accountablity priority and raise standards for every child. This agenda was discussed in the last of five talks to mark the 40th anniversary of The TESS


Graham Donaldson

Senior chief inspector

HM Inspectorate of Education

Ithink views about accountability and inspection tend to get polarised.

Sometimes they reflect an ideological view and sometimes they are conditioned by either a specific experience - good or bad - or representation in the media.

So I think it's important to have this discussion to indicate where inspection fits and what the accountability agenda is about.

Scottish education today is conditioned by the 2000 Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act, Ambitious Excellent Schools, the national priorities, A Curriculum for Excellence and the changing children's services agenda.

There's a very powerful agenda at work in Scottish education at the moment which has the potential to bring together a number of important strands in terms of ensuring education of the highest quality - and that embodies the drive to raise standards for all pupils.

The report HMIE published recently (last month), Missing Out, emphasises the fact that responsibilities are to each and every child. It's not simply about the acquisition of as many examination passes to as high a level as you can get; it's about education on a broader front and it's in the context of the changing nature of teaching.

Engaging the profession directly in the process, bringing about the quality that we're talking about and giving teachers the space necessary to have appropriate ownership of that agenda: accountability and inspection has to relate to these things and does relate directly to them.

We need to be clear about what we mean by accountability. There's often a confusion between accountability and compliance. It's important for us to make that distinction. We have to think about accountability, to whom and for what; and when we talk about freedom or autonomy, we have to talk about freedom for whom and to do what.

All of us who are engaged in education are accountable, to the young people and adult learners, for providing quality education which meets their needs and allows them to realise their potential. We're also accountable to ourselves as professionals. One of the key components of being a professional is that you have an ethic and a responsibility. It's not simply a response to external forces; you have internal responsibility which relates to the young people you are serving.

The processes of accountability are mediated in a number of ways: through legislation, management structures, guidance, professional bodies and codes of practice. The notion of freedom or autonomy is not a licence to do what suits as a professional; it's giving space to exercise professional judgement and expertise critically, to be used in the interests of learners.

We're accountable for how we use the space that's available to us, as a teacher, headteacher, director, chief inspector, to ensure that we are acting in the best interests of children and adult learners.

Accountability shines a light on how well the expectations of the mediated environment are being met and on how well professional space, however big that might be, is being used. It's important to be clear that professional space is not a fixed quantity, that professional space varies, partly according to the perception of the broader mediated structure.

Inspection is about narrative, not numbers. Inspection is not about league tables. Inspection is about telling the story that lies behind the accountability framework. It's addressing complexity, it's addressing context and it's trying to set the framework of expectations. It should be based on criteria which embody best practice, not criteria which are driven by inspectors. The criteria should be shared and understood by all those engaged in the process.

In an international context, Scotland is seen as being a world leader in self-evaluation in which the system takes responsibility for improvement.

That combination of self-evaluation and external inspection is recognised internationally. Scotland is doing something pretty special which is being followed by many other countries.

Inspection is mostly affirmative. That may not be what is apparent from what appears in the newspapers, but inspection is, in the main, affirming that Scottish education is, by and large, doing a good job. Inspection is honest: we don't guild the lily either way.

Inspection must have maximum impact with minimum intrusion and it must not take ownership away from those who are responsible for providing education.

It must emphasise and seek to promote partnership and follow-through processes that, in the way in which we develop criteria, are all designed to try to encourage a sense of partnership. It must be regular, but not frequent. It should be streamlined, but it must be tough. Toughness or honesty or being resolute in the process is essential.

We must be prepared to ask questions of ourselves, about how well we are delivering on the professional agenda for which we are responsible. That includes me.

So, the word "tough", I think, sends the right message . This is not a soft agenda; it's about being clear, focused, honest and open about how well we are actually doing the job we are asked to do.

Finally, if inspection is working properly, it must add value. It must give assurance. It is important to remember that many of those who are engaged in inspection are vulnerable in all sorts of ways, and inspection is partly about working to ensure that they get a good deal by the education system.


Ian Davidson

Head of the improvement team

Scottish Executive Education Department

The 2000 Act put developing children's potential at the heart of different parts of education, which is challenging for a piece of legislation. It also placed statutory duties on education authorities and ministers to endeavour to secure improvement, a thing that would never really have happened before.

It introduced the national priorities which, after lengthy consultation, represented a consensual vision of the agenda for improvement in education. And it introduced the inspection of education authorities, again an innovation.

HMIE has gathered evidence for us (SEED) over the last couple of years and we've been doing our own consulting in Scotland. Some strong messages have come out and the national priorities have been a focus for and driver of improvement. This is not to say that these things wouldn't happen anyway, but it is certainly giving a reference point for people to have confidence that whatever they're doing is in line with a national agenda for education. It's certainly raised the profile of inclusion related issues, of citizenship, of broad life skills.

There are some challenges. There are too many quantitative indicators. We do need to focus on wider achievement and have the confidence to allow kids to engage in a range of activities, rather than being stymied by a league table approach. The next stage for us is to work through consultation evidence and come up with some conclusions as to the framework emerging from the 2000 Act and where it's going over the next few years.

One strong message from consultation is that the national priorities should not change. You could quibble with some of the words but, essentially, they send out the key messages, so retaining a certain degree of stability, which is a very important thing to do.

However, when you look at the supporting structures, there are strong arguments for potentially quite radical changes. Do we need a framework where we have 47 quantitative indicators to support improvement practice? No. The system is a mature system and quality improvement in local authorities has come on in leaps and bounds, not just as a consequence of the national priorities but over a number of years. Empowering and supporting those processes and authorities is really what this framework should be about.

We need to move dramatically away from a system with hard measures and indicators to one which supports the development of a culture of improvement. So we want to turn this framework from what could be regarded as a policing regime, which it was never intended to be, to something that supports the development of an improvement culture.


Katie Grant


If you asked us what one of the happiest days of school was, it might well have been the day the exam results arrived. So we mustn't get this idea that exams are all bad, that students don't like them because, when the results come, some students are miserable and some get their come-uppance.

But some students, who really have worked, open their envelope, they show their parents and they say: "Look, this is what we've done," and they have something to prove that they've really done it. So, let's not write that off.

And let's not write off tables either. Of course, I know schools need a narrative: they just don't need to be plonked bottom of the league table. Schools have to have something to aim for. Otherwise, they'll just sit rather complacently saying "Oh well, you know, we're sitting in the middle of Springburn, what can you expect?" And that is not helpful.


Robin Harper


Green Party

It's a question of whether we really identify what we mean by full potential as clearly as we should. Howard Gardner's "nine competencies"

should be very much at the forefront of that.

A friend of mine who gives advice to businesses thought it would be interesting to find out what they wanted from new employees and he gave out a questionnaire. After things like ability to get on with others, ability to relate to others, self-confidence, ability to assess risks and to take risks, after five competencies in that area, then came literacy and numeracy.

There's a perception that what businesses want is literacy and numeracy, but it's more than that.


Stephen McCafferty

Human resources director

Standard Life

We take for granted that there are basic literacy and numeracy skills. What we want in addition to that is the ability to get on with people, work as part of the team, problem solve and so on. Communication skills and the kinds of things Robin talked about, those are the things that are important to us.


Judith Gillespie

Development manager

Scottish Parent Teacher Council

One of the things that is critically important is that youngsters do learn to read by the end of primary school. That's the gateway to all kinds of learning.

As the parent of a child who had severe reading difficulties in early primary school - where these severe difficulties were resolved, fortunately for us, because we spent a year in America, where they have a programme which addressed her difficulties - I am in absolutely no doubt whatsoever about the critical importance to youngsters of learning to read.

Graham and Ian kept using the word "system" a lot for something that is meant to focus on the child.

If a primary school says "Look, this group of kids is not learning to read", what we have to do is just put everything aside and focus on guaranteeing that these youngsters leave primary school with reading skills, not struggling reading skills but functional reading skills. We don't bother with anything else because that can come later.

Unless youngsters pick up certain skills at the right time, they start to hide the fact that they haven't got these skills and it becomes difficult to address them.

To be honest, if you don't open the door to literacy, then the rest doesn't matter.

Stephen said employers took literacy and numeracy for granted, but you can't take it for granted. I'm really struck by the ads on television for adult literacy where they point out the problems of a parent not being able to read the instructions on the medicine bottle. This is what literacy means.


Walter Humes

Professor of education

Aberdeen University

To achieve all of these worthwhile things, the perspective of teachers is critical because they are at the frontline of delivery.

I wonder how a representative sample of teachers would respond to the argument that we're moving from one system of accountability to a freer system of accountability.

In many ways, the message is a welcome one: that we're moving from a system marked by surveillance, policing and control to a more enlightened climate in which the professional space open to teachers has increased.

I speak to many teachers. Some find the process of inspection helpful and constructive; others do not. I have certainly spoken to teachers and headteachers who have found it demoralising. Part of the reason is that they feel the focus on outcomes means the processes that go on in the school can be undervalued.

Striking a balance between process and outcome is actually very important.

If we had outcomes that indicated dramatic improvements in the examination results, that might seem highly desirable. But if we discover that there was a correlation between the dramatic improvements and the use of plagiarised material downloaded from the internet, for example, that would give us some cause for concern. So process is important, as well as outcome.

I think we have been much better at having systems of accountability relating to the achievement and attainment part of the national priorities.

If we're planning to create a more open climate, we need to think carefully about how the other national priorities are assessed and included in the narrative of what a school is doing.

I certainly welcome the messages that we were getting from Graham and Ian, but I think there's still a lot of work to do in respect of persuading teachers that that's what is happening. We have a low trust climate in terms of teachers' perceptions of how they are managed by local authorities and by the Executive.

To give one illustration: following the publication of A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century, there was a lively debate in the letters page of the General Teaching Council for Scotland magazine. Most striking was that nearly all the teachers who wrote in said "Please don't give my name and school". That tells you a lot about the culture of teaching here.


Alison Waughe-team

Children and families department

Edinburgh City Councill

Iwould like to return to Judith's comments about literacy. I fully agree that we should try our very best to make sure all pupils are as literate as they possibly can be by the time they leave primary school. But I differ in one respect: I wouldn't drop everything to achieve that.

In spite of early intervention projects and more focus on trying to improve reading skills, we still find many pupils struggling by the end of primary school. One thing we can do to help, as well as finding other ways of improving literacy, is to bypass these difficulties so that pupils can access the curriculum in an equal way to other children.

One way to do that is through information and communications technology. We have programmes that can help children to learn independently. Screen readers mean they can search the internet for anything they want and they can have anything read to them. There are programmes that will help them to make notes from that.

There are other programmes, predictive word processors and speaking word processors that enable a child who will barely put a word on paper without someone hanging over them, forcing the words or letters out, to fill pages of perfectly acceptable written work. They can express what they know on a par with their peers.

We have to make sure they have access to that, as well as improve their literacy skills. We also find that kids, once their confidence is boosted through these methods, can put writing on paper better than they did before because they actually have a lot to say.

Young people are digital natives; they've grown up with ICT. They can do amazing things. We're learning how to cope with new technology, some of us better than others. But, as we learn to cope, it can revitalise us. We're in a different age and schools need to adapt.

I'm talking about helping children to put words on paper, but that's not the only way to assess children. They can produce presentations, they can make movies. We have to open our minds and move with the times.

One of the things which is preventing all this is the system in schools where people spend so much time filling in forms, doing lesson plans, doing evaluations, writing screeds which nobody reads. Then they say to me: "I'm sorry, I couldn't get my head round the software because I had all this to do first."


Alison Elliot

Centre for theology and public issues

Edinburgh University

Education is about exploring what we don't know and, in this discussion, it's also about exploring what we find difficult to talk about. The difference between processes and outcomes is one of the classics.

A long time ago, I lectured on psychology in children's language and cognitive development. One of the things that was clear was that, once you start trying to pin down the process, you end up describing outcomes.

This is not a reason not to keep emphasising it, but it is a case of knowing that, when you're talking about outcomes, you're only getting part of the answer, part of the story.

Freedom isn't a free-for-all, it's giving people professional space.

It's interesting which words were not mentioned in the opening presentations: two of them were "judgment" and 'discretion". When I was working in child development, my safety net was the discretion of the teacher, not as an answer but as an extra resource.


Malcolm McGregor



I do quite a lot of work as a business consultant and one of the things that we constantly do is to draw businesses back to their customers, sit them down in focus groups and get the customers to say what they think.

It's extraordinary how what the customers are saying is so different to what the businesses are thinking and how the businesses could be guided, how the strategies could be developed, and how you can start to breathe a new culture when you start talking to people in this way. As soon as they start to feel heard, as soon as you take the time to listen to them, you start changing things.

There's a huge amount of evidence that I've unearthed over the past three years about what stops people from being themselves. You talk about freedom, but I talk about individualism, an individual's potential talent to be who they are and to give their businesses or their work everything, the brain as well as the hand.

What stops them mostly is that they're scared and they fear something.

Listening to the words here, there's something about fear. I feel something about fear and Walter's example summed that up when he talked about people not giving their names.

THE EMPLOYER Stephen McCafferty

I was struck about this business of low trust. Trying to move inspection from one thing to another in an environment where there is low trust is an impossible task. The emphasis should be on how you re-engage with the people who are at the front line: the teachers.

So, how do you engage with them and what is inspection for and what role do they have in influencing that whole process?

I think you need to have outcomes and measures but, within a broad framework, people need to understand how they can influence those things.

Going back on what Malcolm was saying, I'm not sure if it's fear, but certainly people need to be clear on what they can do, where they have scope to act, and not to be mealy-mouthed about that.

The reality is there is good practice and poor practice and we need to say so. If people are not delivering what you want, you need to say in a clear and distinct way that allows people to take action. Clarity of expectation, I think, is key.

In that interface with the people at the sharp end, people having the ability to do what they do best is a key part of holding people accountable. I need to know what's expected of me, I need to know what I can and can't do, and I need to know what I'm good at and what I'm not good at.

Working within that kind of framework, we can then move away from a supervisory type of approach to inspection, because you don't need to check people: people check themselves based on this broader framework.


John Fraser

Children and families department

Edinburgh City Council

I don't feel there is any room for complacency in Scottish education at the present time. There are some challenges, and I think we all agree with that. But most pupils who leave school now actually enjoy their school days. We need enjoyment if we're going to have effective learning.

Schools are pleasant places and the ethos in schools is very positive nowadays. That's because schools are not all just about academic subjects; they have a rich programme of activities. The difficulty we have is the evidence that we use in the accountability process. We don't have good evidence of all that goes on in schools.

There's too much talk about the negative of what's going on in schools.

Graham talked about the inspection process being mostly affirmative. I'd agree with that. But what do we see in the press? Last night, it said that we're not closing the gap; two nights ago, it was that we're not doing two hours of PE; this morning, we've heard that we're not teaching pupils to type.

Nobody ever tells us what not to do in schools; people keep telling us what we should be doing. We can't be doing everything and the wider we spread ourselves, the thinner the quality is.


Erica Morton

Edinburgh City Council

Iam just wondering, in terms of inspections, if young people are the customers, how do they evaluate the service that they're receiving? Can they work with teachers rather than it being done to them?


Sergei Pomphrey

Member of student council

Craigmount High, Edinburgh

Pupils do need to have more of a say in what happens to them. With our student council, we have money just to spend on the school. Our voice is heard and we've had lots of meetings with other student councils.

If we had a chance to evaluate our school, that would also be a good idea. We'd have, maybe, a more stringent point of view. We probably wouldn't be as nice.

Our approach might be a bit less mature, but a lot of good points would still come out of it. There would be a lot to say about ICT, there would be a lot to say about the equipment and the teaching and who is teaching who.

There would also be a lot to say about subjects or extra-curricular activities. We'd want to say make school fun.

Having the chance to evaluate your own school could bring out more ideas and help everyone.


Alison Elliot

What Sergei's been saying reminds me of my feelings when Graham was talking about the inspections being about narrative and not numbers. I was mentally playing around with narrative and scene-setting and plot and characters.

How different is the account of one school from another? And, for narrative action, are you just putting words round the numbers? Or are you actually trying to tell a story about each of the schools? Are they different? Is it a dialogue or is it just a story? And is it a dialogue with the pupils and teachers and so on, or is it the inspectors talking to each other?


Robin Harper

My own experiences of inspections talk about the fear factor, in almost all the schools that I've taught in, except latterly at Boroughmuir High in Edinburgh. There, the system was beginning to change. It was an interaction between inspector and the teacher, and it was a learning experience for us and them.

The broadening of the remit of inspections has been positive because it measures what a school feels like, whether it's happy, whether there's a good ethos, whether the teachers and pupils are well-motivated.

These are important because it's when those things break down that schools stop working. It doesn't matter how good an examination system you've got, and how well-trained the teachers are, if the ethos and motivation begin to break down. That's when schools run into problems.


Walter Humes

It is important to explore the relation between in-school factors affecting children's attainment and out-of-school factors. The inspectorate can only do so much in schools and local authorities in terms of accountability for what is achieved within the educational system.

We had an interesting HMIE report on Missing Out, which looked at the bottom 20 per cent of pupils and how we are failing to close the gap between their achievement and the achievement of the rest. But it seems to me that when we're talking about accountability, the accountability of schools, we need to see schools in their wider context and to see educational achievement in the context of wider social issues, like health, social work, crime, the environment, housing and community development.

If we're going to be fair in holding schools to account, we need to set that context and we need to try to influence the terms of that debate much more significantly than we have hitherto.

This has implications for how teachers are trained. I would certainly like to see some elements of inter-professional training where teachers meet with other professionals and discuss areas of common interest, not least what it means to be a professional and what providing a quality service to the client entails.


Judith Gillespie

We started with a paradox of the conflict between freedom and management and accountability. It's interesting that, if Hollywood portrays successful teaching, it does something like Dead Poets Society where the teacher breaks the rules, engages with the pupils and is hugely successful.

But there are certain features about that because they have to be unconventional, the pupils are always difficult and they always work.

But it's an interesting vision, because it's the attractive vision of education.


John Fraser

Iwould just like to endorse what Walter said about the integration of services. It's not just desirable: it's essential. Edinburgh, like other authorities, has now moved towards a much more integrated system. We've got a children and families department and I'm now working closely with social workers, educational psychologists and so on.

It wasn't that long ago when we referred to these professions as external agencies from schools. They are an integral part of schools and children will benefit.

Fundamental parental skills are lacking. Research shows that the gap between the haves and have-nots exists in children of 22 months, the same gap that we're trying to close when they're 16 years old. We've got a lot of work to do with young parents, frequently single parents in certain areas. The move towards a children and families department, integrating services, is a huge step forward.


Alison Waugh

I'm involved in teaching teachers literacy. In one course, a teacher told me they were really unhappy with the programme that they were being asked to deliver in early intervention because some of their children cried when they did the assessments.

I said: "Well, why don't we stop doing them and do something different?"

"We're not allowed to. We have to follow the programme to the letter," they said.

Teachers need to be given confidence to break the rules and say "Sorry, I'm not doing this; it doesn't work." But make sure they're trained or educated. The Finnish idea to have everybody at Masters level is probably a good idea because doing that level of work will force people to think far more about what they're doing. Then, I think, our education system could improve.


Katie Grant

I just find it so extraordinary when you say: "Now integrate." It's disgraceful that we should have to be doing this in the 21st century. We've now had compulsory education for years. We were more literate in 1896, if you look at the register, than we are now.

So, although I welcome the integration of services, because I think it will help children, we've also got to say to ourselves: "What have we been doing in affluent Scotland that we still need these sorts of services in our schools?" It used to be a given that you would be taught; now that isn't a given any longer.

Things can't be a free-for-all anymore. You can't just teach what you like in schools; there has to be some sort of rigour, but we've now got into straitjackets.

I know a teacher who told me what he really wanted to do was put up around the wall a timeline for history. Because the children are taught a little bit about the Victorians, then a bit about the Romans, they have no idea which came first, and he thought it would be a nice idea to put up the dates. Oh no, no, that was far too rigid. That was teaching history in the old-fashioned way, so that wasn't allowed.

We need an inspection which is in one way tighter and in one way much looser. Could inspection reports include something which points to where teachers can say: "This was a special scheme; we thought that it worked for this reason and it didn't work for that reason"? There doesn't seem to be room for that at this moment.

It seems to me that it might be one way to get this balance back between rigid rules and the kind of free-for-all which doesn't work.


Lisa Dunlop

Craigmount High, Edinburgh

My idea of a successful school is one where you got the best grades you could get and also where you enjoyed it, because there is no point doing something if you feel it's boring or a chore.


Sergei Pomphrey

Part of the school experience has got to be that you come out as a fully-rounded person, and a very successful school experience would be getting your grades. But there is too much focus on the grades and not enough focus on life skills.

There are plenty of people in my year that are getting four or five As and who are doing three Advanced Highers as well, and probably going to get As. But they're shy, they're away in their own world.

It's unfair that smart people are left aside on their own. They'll get a certificate at the end of the year from the headmaster and that's their school career.

It's just a bit of paper. They have no friends, no societies, no achievements otherwise. And it's a shame.


Lisa Dunlop

You can have both but it's just such a shame that it doesn't happen as often as it should, that the grades are what counts, apparently, not being just a nice person.


Katie Grant

Iwant to stand up for the geeks. In this country, we're far too keen to stamp on the people who are a bit different in that way, those who actually like going to the library, who are prepared not to enjoy themselves because they know they can't enjoy themselves all the time, but who really work hard.

I saw a piece in the press the other day about Nicola Benedetti, which I thought was a disgrace, saying she couldn't really enjoy her life very much because it was very, very difficult being a concert violinist and you had to practice all the time. It is true that you do have to practise, but they do want to do it because the achievement at the end is enormous.

I think we need to be kinder to geeks in this country because we have far too few of them, There's far too much of a culture of denigration of geeks and saying "Oh, they're just snooty people who want to go to Oxford and who don't really want to enjoy themselves and join in school life."


Malcolm McGregor

It must be difficult for Graham and Ian listening to all of this because there are lots of ideas. Where are the answers? Who's got the answers? The people at school, the kids and the teachers?

If I was a young teacher full of enthusiasm and came and worked for John, for example, I'm sure I would really flourish because you sound like the sort of headteacher who would really bring on talent.

But if I had a headteacher that Walter referred to earlier, you can imagine this flamboyant, enthusiastic teacher straight out of teacher training coming into a school, faced with a difficulty through inspection, going to the headteacher and being told "This is the system, sorry". And you just feel that energy then seeping out.


Graham Donaldson

There are a number of things it is important for me to make clear. There's a lot of good in the system, but we are regularly picking up, in our inspections, situations where children are being let down by what's happening at the moment. So we shouldn't be in the situation where we assume that you just give people more freedom and everything will be wonderful.

The trick for my organisation, and the position that I'm in, and the broader system of accountability, is to try to ensure that we don't stifle the kind of enthusiasm that is in the best interests of children.

Inspection is all about the test of whether things are working and whether they're working for children. That's why we're changing the inspection process, which has been around since 1840.

It's an organic process and there's an interaction between what we do as inspectors and the nature of the world that we are inspecting. There has been a change in that world in the course of the past five years, an attempt to create a different context within which education takes place.

We do talk with young people in inspections. We're asking children about their experience. We're looking at what they're doing, looking at their work. We give them questionnaires and ask them to talk to us about how they regard their school experience, and that's a starting point for inspections.

A Curriculum for Excellence is asking a lot more of schools in terms of building the capacities of young people, trying to say it's not enough just to be successful in examinations, but we need you to be confident individuals, you need to be effective contributors and we want you to be responsible citizens.

These are all important parts of being rounded and that's a much more explicit part of what education is about. Inspection and accountability systems have got to encourage that and not say "That's all very well, although all we really care about is how you do in your examinations".

But, how people do in examinations is important; people's life chances are critically affected by how they do in the examination system. It's our responsibility to ensure that young people are doing as well as they possibly can within an examination framework. That remains a critical part of our responsibilities as educators.

It's very important that inspection builds confidence in the system. There are issues to do with trust and there are issues to do with fear; there's an element of that for all of us if any external body is looking at what we do.

We are inspected quis custodiet, inspected internally at the Executive. We ask external people to come and look at what we do. Every year, we ask an external organisation to go to all the people - children, teachers, parents - who have been part of the inspection process and ask them to reflect on that process and say how it worked for them.

In excess of 70 to 80 per cent of those to whom we talk have high confidence in the process, say they look forward to it. There is a bit of fear about it, but the reality is it's a constructive process and the school is better as a result.

If people are paralysed about the inspection process, they will not give of their best. It's an important part of what inspectors do to try to make sure that, as soon as possible, they put a human face on the process and try to make sure that people understand we are working with teachers to try to do the best for children.

That's our part of the process, to give an external perspective which tries to ensure that, in that school with those kids, the school is doing clearly as well as it possibly can by those children.

Gaining the confidence of teachers is important, continuing always to focus on the young people, then getting better at how they engage with the inspection process.

Inspection is about the education system growing by seeing where it's working well, by putting that into the public domain and encouraging others to look at how it's working well. That helps build capacity; it helps the system to grow and improve.

Inspectors, every time they walk through the door of a school, are learning. They grow as inspectors, their competence increases by seeing good teachers at work and they learn from that. Their horizons and their understanding of what makes good education should, in the course of their career, shift dramatically, so you don't have an inspector who goes in and says: "You're not doing it the way I think is right." If it's working for the children, you'll learn from that. You try to understand why it's working for the children: that then allows you to grow as an inspector.

The business of self-evaluation and ownership seems to be absolutely critical. It's integral to being a professional, it's integral to what we should have as an education system.

We should be restless, demanding of ourselves in terms of trying to ensure that we are constantly improving our system. If that is happening, systems of accountability are your friends, not your enemies. They are very much part of a collective effort to do the best by our kids and to ensure that we're in a process of constant improvement.


Ian Davidson

It was really heartening to hear the perspective that Lisa and Sergei brought to this, because that is the real one. Malcolm asked who has the answers. Well, we all do. We are all leaders in this system. We're all leaders in education, approaching it from the human perspective.

This is our future. We all want the place to be better than it was when we came in and that generates this intense debate.

Part of the challenge for us in government is to articulate our fundamental commitment to that approach, to that vision, to empower everybody at all levels to engage.

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