Suspend Estyn inspections

All inspections suspended for a year, grading to be scrapped, and a focus on validating schools’ self-evaluation are in the recommendations for change in a significant independent review into inspectorate Estyn, published 7 June.

Independent review

Professor Graham Donaldson was commissioned by Estyn and the Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams AM to review the inspectorate’s role and function in the context of the major reform programme underway in Wales.

Prof Donaldson is the main architect of the new curriculum, due to be available for use in 2020.  A former teacher, he headed Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education in Scotland from 2002-10.

Accountability without fear

Prof Donaldson said,

“A system that’s based on pressure, putting pressure on schools in order to get better only takes you so far. On occasions that’s necessary, it’s important to put pressure on, in order to bring about a change or to challenge complacency.

But you don’t build high-quality education systems on fear.”

The report, A Learning Inspectorate, makes 34 recommendations, covering Estyn’s governance, inspections and wider issues relating to accountability and improvement in system undergoing substantial reform.

Key recommendations

The recommendations include:

– A pause in inspection cycle for a year starting September 2019 to allow inspectors and schools to work together on incoming reforms
– More emphasis on schools evaluating their own performance with validation from Estyn
– Evaluative judgements in school inspection reports to be described with qualitative commentary and not as headline gradings
– Inspection to focus on four key questions, including
– The school’s engagement with the new curriculum
– Pupil progression, achievement and wellbeing
– Quality of learning and teaching
– Effectiveness of self-evaluation
– A facility for stakeholders to request an inspection
– Estyn to deliver a ‘Quality of Education’ in Wales report every 3 years in addition to amended Annual Report

What they said

Prof Donaldson said, “At the moment we have an approach to inspection and to accountability generally – which is a very blunt instrument – every school gets the same, no matter how good that school might be.

What we need to do is take a much more tailored and refined programme that allows schools that can be creative and can serve the children well to be given the opportunity to do that and then ensure the resources of inspection are applied diagnostically to help those schools that are struggling to get better.”

David Evans, Wales secretary of union NEU, said “if accepted and implemented, these recommendations will be a seismic shift in school inspection which will be largely welcomed”.

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector at Estyn, said it would now consult on the recommendations.


Author: Robin Hughes

Robin Huges HeadshotRobin has been a school governor for over ten years and is bilingual, Welsh and English. Before becoming a consultant and working with a number of private and public sector educational organisations, Robin had stakeholder management roles in an examination board and was Wales Secretary for ASCL, a body that represents over 16,000 senior school leaders.




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