Voice Official Response: Inspection arrangements from September 2021
Background: Estyn is consulting on changes to the way it inspects schools and pupil referral units. (This is its second consultation on shaping inspection to support education reform.) It is consulting on:
- overall summative gradings;
- the areas it inspects;
- inspecting A-level/ vocational learning in sixth forms;
- the notice period; and
- follow-up activity in maintained schools.
Summary: The education workforce – leaders, teachers and support staff – is critical to the delivery and quality of education in Wales. Wales is currently facing a recruitment and retention crisis. There are fewer numbers entering initial teacher training courses, a worrying proportion of NQTs leave within five years of entering the profession, and there are shortages of teachers in particular subjects and in geographical areas across Wales.
Therefore, it is paramount that the workforce is valued in terms of pay, career progression and ensuring a reasonable rather than an excessive workload. Voice knows that Estyn is currently working to incorporate staff wellbeing into the new inspection regime. However, we would like to see an additional discrete inspection area that focuses on staff wellbeing, professional learning and workload. This would demonstrate to all stakeholders that Estyn is taking wellbeing, recruitment and retention concerns seriously when inspections take place. A valued and content workforce is an essential element to an effective learning organisation.
We strongly agree with the removal of summative gradings because:
- a summative grading is a blunt instrument that lacks nuance. It can be misinterpreted by the media and the school community; and.
- summative gradings provide a top-down ‘snapshot’ assessment on a school at a particular moment in time from an outside agency brought in to judge performance, which is not helpful in general to improving schools’ performance.
Voice would prefer to see the context, evaluation and judgment provided in Estyn reports as part of the encouragement of continuous self-evaluation.
Removing the Estyn review would ensure that resources are most efficiently directed to where they are needed.
Voice agrees that it would be clearer to include a separate section on the sixth form (where the school has a sixth form) within Estyn’s report.
The notification period is often a time of stress and heavy workload for the education workforce. A shorter notice period would reduce the time period during which such stress is suffered and also give the message that self-evaluation is a continuous process.
Voice is strongly committed to the new climate of self-evaluation that will form the backdrop to the new curriculum. Member feedback tells us that some schools will need more support than others. We hope that Estyn’s attitude will be one of support and encouragement rather than of a top-down judgment, in a process of engagement with schools and other stakeholders, so that the judgment given comes with the resources and support needed for schools to improve.
Senior Professional Officer (Wales)