Radical change for school reports

19th August 2011 at 01:00
Inspectors will move towards `confidence indicators' in letters to parents

School inspection reports to parents will no longer list the six- point "quality indicators" ranging from "excellent" to "unsatisfactory" that heads blame for fuelling a league-table syndrome.

Instead, under the new inspection framework published by Education Scotland - the successor body to HMIE and Learning and Teaching Scotland - parents will receive letters indicating whether inspectors are "confident", "partially confident" or "not confident" in a school's capacity to improve.

The change is one of a series of measures which show the inspectorate relying more on schools' self-evaluation and adopting a philosophy which portrays inspectors more as professional coaches than "external examiners".

While headteachers have broadly welcomed the changes, parents' leaders have expressed misgivings about some aspects - particularly a desire by Education Scotland to publish more information online and less in traditional paper-format.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said that under the new framework, parents would have to go online if they wanted information about quality indicators on: improvements in performance; learners' experiences; the curriculum; meeting learning needs; and improvement through self-evaluation.

"I feel that parents should get these automatically. Apart from anything else, the indicators will go out to the local media and there will be a story written about the local school, using information that parents won't necessarily have access to," said Mrs Prior.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said primary heads had long been calling for quality indicators to be removed from parental reports.

He described the use of "confidence" statements as a sound idea.

"They should be highlighting in very clear terms whether there are issues of concern in the school or not. But I would not want to see a series of confidence statements effectively replacing QIs and performing the same `scores on the doors' function," he said.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said the publication of quality indicators had contributed to "league table syndrome" in the media and did not give parents the real information they needed to know.

PARENT POWERS

Parent council chairs to be party to `confidential' RIF report

From this month, the chair of a school's parent council will have access to a read-only version of the Record of Inspection Findings (RIF), which until now has been sent only to the school and the education authority.

But the parent council chair will have to treat the report - which gives detailed feedback on inspectors' findings - as confidential and agree not to copy it to other parents.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "We agree with the principle that the parent council chair should have access to the RIF, (but) anyone has access to it by requesting it through Freedom of Information legislation," she said. "It can't simply be a case of sending an email and saying, `Here's the RIF and it's confidential.' There has to be work done to help the parent council chair to understand what has to be done with it and how to use the information."

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said the RIF was designed to be a practitioners' report rather than a public-facing document.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, added: "It is not to denigrate parents to say that kind of detail is not necessary for them, other than, for example, the parents most closely involved in the school - the parent council. By and large, what a parent wants to know on a range of fronts is: is the school successful with my child? Is my child confident and happy and safe? And are they going to progress in the way I would want them to progress? The school needs to know more than that."

elizabeth.buie@tes.co.uk.

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