What’s the point of school inspection?

A year-long Tes Scotland investigation has forced the schools inspectorate, Education Scotland, to publish the date of the last inspection for every school in the country – and prompted a debate on whether school inspections really matter.

Our figures – which showed that some schools had not been inspected for 16 years and more than a fifth of all schools had not been inspected for over a decade – were picked up by the national press and resulted in first minister Nicola Sturgeon being grilled by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson last week. Davidson said that school inspections had “crashed to their lowest level since devolution” and noted that, of those not inspected for at least a decade, one was in the first minister’s constituency and two were in that of education secretary John Swinney.

But Scotland’s largest teaching union has told Tes Scotland that opposition politicians are calling for school inspection for its own sake. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said there was no evidence that inspection improved outcomes for pupils and that he believed Scotland should follow in the footsteps of Finland, where there is no school inspection regime.

Tes Scotland asked Education Scotland what evidence there was that school inspection improved outcomes for pupils. Inspections and improvement go hand in hand, said a spokesman. “These [benefits] include providing schools with a clear sense of direction, providing additional evidence to support improvement, increasing the pace of change in existing improvement work and increasing staff confidence in their professional skills.”

But when it came to hard evidence to support these claims, all the body cited was its own post-inspection survey of headteachers. This received just 41 responses but 90 per cent of those heads reported that their school had made changes as a direct result of the inspection, while 95 per cent said professional dialogue with inspectors had helped their school to make improvements.

Read more What’s the point of school inspection?

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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