I have welcomed the A Learning Inspectorate report. I am glad that the report recognises the vital role that Estyn plays in enhancing the learning of young people in Wales, and builds on the strengths of the current inspection system.
I also welcome the Minister for Education’s announcement on Evaluation and Improvement Arrangements for Wales, including the announcement regarding consulting on inspection period regulations. To enable a partial suspension of inspection for maintained schools from September 2020 to August 2021, current regulations will need to extend the inspection period from seven to eight years for the present cycle. This would enable Estyn to work closely with schools on curriculum reform for a whole academic year.
During the next few years, Estyn’s work will evolve and change. In particular, I propose to implement changes to inspection arrangements in three phases. During this time, our statutory duties will remain the same and we will continue to inspect and report on the quality and standards of education and training in Wales. Any changes will be implemented following full consultation with all our stakeholders.
We will shortly be launching a consultation on this phase and asking stakeholders for their views. Estyn recognises the scale of the expectations being placed on schools by the education reform agenda. Activities undertaken during this phase would therefore focus on supporting and evaluating the changes taking place in education in Wales. It would allow inspectors to develop an understanding of the reform process and enable us to provide further policy advice, adapt our practices, and develop new inspection arrangements. During this phase we intend to:
In this phase, inspection would resume. New inspection arrangements would be introduced, building on the current inspection arrangements, with adjustments to reflect the expectations in A Learning Inspectorate and the requirements of the new self-evaluation for improvement toolkit, currently being developed by the profession with support from Estyn and the OECD. Before introducting new inspection arrangements, we will consult fully with stakeholders, as we did in developing current inspection arrangements.
A significant proposal would be to move towards removing summative gradings in inspection reports. Inspection reports would provide clear and detailed evaluations of a school’s work. This move would encourage more professional dialogue about the underlying factors contributing to the quality of the school’s provision. We would also consult with the non-maintained sector, independent schools and post-16 providers about similar changes to inspection in their sectors.
During this phase we will also pilot additional developments to our inspection arrangements in preparation for Phase 3. Proposals would include further emphasis on self-evaluation, and an introduction of judgements relating to validation of a school’s self-evaluation. The judgements would be supported by a report narrative that would clearly identify strengths and areas for improvement.
The transition to Phase 3 would be over a number of years, depending on the maturity of the system to self-evaluate and taking into account the roll out of the curriculum. During this time, schools would be expected to work with their peers, with support from consortia, in reaching their view about their own strengths and areas for development.
Phase 3 will be a further evolution of inspection arrangements. As indicated above, this would involve placing more emphasis on self-evaluation and introducing validation through inspection. Validation through inspection would be introduced with schools that are ready for this approach. As schools mature in their capacity to engage honestly with self-evaluation, the role of external bodies would be to provide perspectives that probe internal judgements. Inspectors would report on their confidence in the school’s self-evaluation process. That confidence could be expressed in the form of degrees of confidence, such as fully confident, partially confident or not confident.
A strong message in ‘A Learning Inspectorate’ report is the need for more ‘real-time’ intelligence on the education system. A key weakness of current inspection arrangements is that there is a gap of seven years on average between inspections – and schools can improve or decline during this time. One proposal is that we would inspect and validate a school’s self-evaluation process more than once within a seven-year cycle. This would allow Estyn to give more frequent assurance about the integrity of the self-evaluation process, about the standards being achieved and about priorities for further improvement.
19 February 2019