The Association of School and College Leaders [ASCL] in the UK have issued a paper demanding change in the way British schools are inspected. Worldwide there remains a very complex balancing act to be drawn between the value of school inspections in supporting schools, driving improvements in quality and informing parents on the one side, and reflecting schools fairly and ensuring that the stress of inspections does not do the opposite of what was intended in diverting resources from children.
In Dubai, the KHDA established an inspection regime based to some degree on taking the best from Public School Inspections and those undertaken by OFSTED in the state sector. Where, arguably, to a large degree inspections have remained relatively static in the UK, inspections in the UAE have evolved – a good example being the new focus on child happiness in schools that will play a powerful new role in KHDA inspections. Many argue that, today, UAE school inspections lead the world in their adaptation to the different needs of schools and children in an education sector today powering a sector firing on all cylinders for our children.
There are, however, some areas of the ASCL recommendations that will strike a chord and some schools have long argued that in depth narrative stories about schools highlighting their strengths and weaknesses would be more helpful than the current gradings which score schools overall between Very Weak and Outstanding, and score schools on the same basis within different areas of provision.
It is also true that schools face significant pressure from school inspections.
What do you think? Do you think grades help in simplifying very complex judgements, or should we abolish grades in favour of a more detailed narrative explanation able to draw a more nuanced picture of the achievements of schools, children and teachers? Are grades too blunt a tool to use?
Do you think inspections can be made less stressful for schools, but still help drive the improvements for children we all agree on?
The ASCL have issued broadly 7 key areas for discussion by parents, teachers, school leaders, inspectors and government to try and get waht they see as fairer more helpful school inspections:
- Removal and ending of all graded judgements, including any verdicts like “Outstanding” or “Good”, which they argue tell you nothing about the context of a school’s achievements for children, mislead parents and stigmatise schools, unfairly, for years. “Reductionist” and “Misleading”, they say grades contribute to unfair stress on schools on teachers and result in excessive workload being spent on inspections rather than what matters – teaching. They ask that grades be replaced by narrative judgements highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of a school in each area of inspection, this infinitely more helpful to parents.
- Schools to be given greater freedom to adapt the curriculum and its teaching according to the needs of children and the culture of a school, without being penalised for doing so.
- Inspections to have clear, openly published details of what is being inspected and how exactly. They call for much more transparency in how inspections are run, how inspectors are trained and open availability of the manual used by Inspectors so that schools are more clear on what they need to do to reduce stress and ensure that schools are 100% clear on what they need to do.
- A new agreed set of principles on which to judge schools that reflects the differences between schools, and what really matters for children and parents, better.
- Greater support for schools that are deemed to not meet a Good, (Very Good) or Outstanding level of provision
- Much greater detail in reports capturing the nuances of what schools do well and celebrating this, as well as those areas for improvement and how that can be achieved.
- Inspections should be lead by those with expertise in the exact type of school being inspected.
In many ways, UAE inspections are already adapting much better than their UK equivalents – and we know from schools that the support they receive from inspectors is both helpful and positive.
Full report and recommendations
You can read the full ASCL Report below:The-future-of-inspection-an-ASCL-discussion-paper
Let us know your thoughts by contacting us. Is this a helpful discussion document, or not relevant to the UAE? Are school inspections here too stressful? Or do we need some level of stress to drive positive change? Should we abolish overall grades in inspections, or would that make understanding how well schools are performing more difficult to understand and less transparent? Could our outstanding inspection regime be even better, or have we got the balance right? You can email [email protected]
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