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Weir calls for radical change in way school inspections are done

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Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir has called for "radical change" in the way that school inspections are carried out.

Mr Weir said the culture of inspections has to change, with more trust placed in the professionalism of teachers as "experts in their field".

He was speaking at the annual conference of teaching union INTO in Newry yesterday.

Teaching unions have been seeking reforms to the school inspection process, including inspectors being subject to more accountability.

Mr Weir said there has been good engagement between the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI), which inspects schools, and unions.

"There has been material produced to help clarify and reduce the documentation required for inspections, including myth-busting information, and this is something I think will roll out," he said.

"However, what I would say is, this can only be the start to the change of inspections. We must see a radical change in the direction of travel of inspections.

"I detailed this in a previous policy paper 'Reducing the Burden' and how I would like to see inspections reformed."

Mr Weir said the culture of inspections had to change, based around three key principles.

He added: "We need to see a higher trust in the professionalism of teachers and to allow teachers to deliver, and, accompanying with that, a light touch regime when it comes to what monitoring needs to happen.

"Secondly, we need to reach a point where there is no additional data to be produced, by schools, ahead of any inspection. We should trust teachers as experts in their fields and not just data providers. The best schools are schools which start from the point of self-evaluating.

"Thirdly, there must be a change in the approach and in relationships.

"We need to shift away from the current model to an educational improvement service based around collaboration, based around supporting schools, based around mutual respect and generating two way discussions."

INTO's Northern secretary Gerry Murphy said teachers finally have something to look forward to.

"The round of applause and standing ovation said it all," he said.

"The burden they have had to put up with, by carrying out a regime which generates so much stress and pressure on top of their already pressured jobs, is unwarranted, unnecessary and unfair."

Belfast Telegraph