The way to ensure efficiency

14th November 1997 at 00:00
Two new English courses in Secondary 5 and 6 are among the outcomes of self-inspection at Oldmachar Academy after Anna Muirhead, principal teacher of English, ran through the performance indicators for learning and teaching with her departmental members.

A Communication 4 course, normally offered by further education, has broadened choice for pupils seeking alternative routes to higher education. A check on resources, staffing and the timetable was enough to set 17 pupils on a fresh academic trail.

Ms Muirhead maintains staff were more involved in drawing up development plans, which became more focused. Revised statementsand targets were agreed during the "fine-tuning" process. So was there any reaction to it?

"People know the way the world's going. Self-evaluation is getting them proof to justify what they're doing. It provides them with the formal evidence and enables them to be more efficient," she says.

David Chinn, principal teacher of art and design, is equally convinced after running a check on an S3 design unit. The methodology of the performance indicators produced hard figures that confirmed what staff intuitively felt about the unit. Mr Chinn says: "Is it possible to stand back from the department and be sufficiently objective? The answer is that it is."

Joe Leiper, the headteacher, is a firm supporter of the Scottish approach to quality. "You can no longer be standing still. It's not an option. I should not be afraid of external inspection if things are working well in the school. My job is to run the best school I can and I need to have confidence we can identify our strengths and weaknesses and work on them. If I do not find them, someone else will," he says.

Mr Leiper believes the ownership of self-evaluation brings its own rewards. "People say you cannot self-regulate but what we're saying is that it is perfectly possible because there are checks and balances in the Scottish system - relative ratings, national comparisons. Change cannot be imposed through edict or an external education department."

The hard edge in the years of shrinking budgets is that schools have to know whether they are spending their money wisely and the performance indicators ask questions, Mr Leiper points out. He admits it is time-consuming to make the approach work well and that it does not help to innovate in a climate of cuts. It tests professionalism to the full.

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