29 July 2014
Article by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
Changes to the timing and planning of school inspections are being made from the start of the new school term (1 September 2014).
Inspections of schools and education settings in Wales are carried out by HM Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales, Estyn, on a six year cycle (currently 2010-2016), meaning that each setting is inspected once within that period. The six year cycle will remain although, in order to reduce predictability, the timing of an individual setting’s inspection will no longer depend on which point it was inspected in the previous cycle. Currently, schools can broadly expect that, if they were inspected mid-way through the last inspection cycle for example, there is a good chance that their next inspection will be mid-way through the current cycle.
As the Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis, said in a recent Cabinet statement, the Welsh Government believes that the changes will encourage schools and education settings to be ‘inspection ready’ on a continual basis. All settings will still be inspected once every six years under the Common Inspection Framework, although Estyn will have the flexibility to inspect better performing settings less frequently and lower performing settings more often.
Another change is that schools will no longer have to provide three weeks’ notice regarding their pre-inspection parents meeting. The parents meeting is seen as important and is being retained, although the notice requirement had a knock-on effect of Estyn needing to give schools a minimum 4 weeks’ notice that it would be carrying out an inspection. The Welsh Government has said that the change will enable Estyn to reduce the notice it gives to schools about forthcoming inspections if it wishes to do so. However, the inspectorate said in June 2014 this would not change and that schools would still receive 20 working days’ notice of an inspection.
The third change is that settings will have less time to produce their post inspection action plan following the inspection. This is reducing from 45 working days to 20 working days. The Welsh Government says this reflects the importance of action being taken urgently by education settings to address inspection outcomes and will introduce consistency as post-16 settings already operate under a 4 week timeframe.
The changes have been made by The Education (Amendments Relating to the Inspection of Education and Training) (Wales) Regulations 2014, which were laid before the Assembly in May 2014. This change in the law followed a decision by the Welsh Government in November 2013 following joint consultation with Estyn between February and May 2013, which in turn followed a mid-cycle review by Estyn itself in 2012.
Further information on Estyn’s inspection arrangements can be found on its website, including the guidance it issues to its inspectors and all of its inspection reports. Estyn also produces ‘Thematic Reports’ on areas it is specifically asked to do so by the Welsh Government each year and the Chief Inspector publishes an Annual Report on the findings from the inspections carried out each academic year, applying these to form conclusions on an all-Wales basis.