'Stop getting so wound up'

18th July 2008 at 01:00
Wales's chief inspector has repeated his support for short-notice school inspections similar to those in his native Scotland

Wales's chief inspector has repeated his support for short-notice school inspections similar to those in his native Scotland.

Speaking at the Governors' Wales annual conference in Llandrindod Wells last Saturday, Dr Bill Maxwell said the long notice of inspection, so often the cause of upheaval and stress within schools, should come to an end. He said just three weeks' notice would stop teachers "becoming too wound up".

Dr Maxwell was responding to Flintshire governor David Hytch, who lamented the current system with its "brown envelope precipitating feverish activity".

"I came from Scotland, where schools had just three weeks," he said, adding that prolonged build-up should be avoided, with inspections "light and proportionate".

"I think a lot could be done to streamline the process," he said.

But he warned governors against "unsupported self-evaluation that could drift into-self delusion".

"We see that occasionally in schools that we have serious concerns about," he said.

Inspection arrangements have been under review by Estyn since November last year. Headteacher unions agree lighter-touch inspection is the way forward, with full inspections being carried out only at schools causing concern based on poor self-assessment.

In England, lighter-touch inspections, with shorter notice, were introduced in 2005.

Elsewhere at the conference, governors were told by education minister Jane Hutt they must share equal responsibility with heads for standards, and must help drive forward the School Effectiveness Framework (SEF) to raise them.

As the Assembly government tries to tackle the widening gap between the best and worst-performing schools, pilot SEF projects involving collaboration and superheads sharing best practice will start in the autumn.

"It isn't another bolt-on, quick fix or magic wand," Ms Hutt told the conference. "It needs to be driven by governors, as well as heads and school leaders, at other levels. It means asking critical questions. You are responsible for standards."

Ms Hutt said new regulations would allow governing bodies to collaborate and take delegated powers "over matters of common interest". She ruled out mandatory training for governors.

Correction

The TES Cymru would like to make it clear that it was Steffan James, Estyn inspector, and not the national languages centre CiLT Cymru, who warned more exciting lessons were needed to avoid future linguistic disaster, as wrongly stated in the page 4 story strapline.

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