Is school inspection process needed? – asks former head

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A FORMER Larne principal has claimed that the recent performance of Northern Ireland primary school pupils in international academic assessments should “sound the death knell” of the Department of Education’s Inspectorate system.

Audrey Stewart, formerly head of Olderfleet Primary and a past president of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, made the claim following the publication of two studies which show that the attainment of primary pupils in the province in reading and numeracy is higher than in any other English speaking country in the world.

The local educationalist added that the results from the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) Assessments were testimony to teachers’ commitment.

“Our teachers are to be congratulated for their input in these outstanding results, which reveal the sheer dedication and commitment of staff to their students,” said Mrs Stewart.

“In recent times and in months to come, education has faced unprecedented upheaval – and all at a time of unprecedented fiscal restraint. Yet these statistics speak for themselves and it is the input of the teachers which remains the constant in what can at times appear to be an ever-educational scene.

“Surely these results show that our teachers are doing nothing less than a world class job. Why then do they need the intrusiveness – let alone expense - of a controversial Inspectorate system? It is clear that our teachers are more than capable of self-evaluation to maintain this standard of excellence.

“The inspection process does not create the quality of education that pupils throughout Northern Ireland receive. Indeed with the development of self-evaluation in schools, the high quality of teaching staff and the huge input made by Boards of Governors, it is questionable that inspections on the scale we currently have are even required. If we look to Finland, which has consistently enjoyed high scores on international scales of measurement, we find they do not even have an Inspectorate,” Mrs Stewart concluded.