'Whole-school evaluations are useless, full of warm, woolly waffle'
TBH:A PARENT WRITES: I am on the board of management of a primary school, and I am concerned about the standard of education being delivered to the pupils.
Unfortunately, boards of management have no authority over the teachers, some of whom appear to suit themselves. Recently our school underwent a full assessment by the Department of Education as part of the whole- school evaluation (WSE) reporting scheme.
I was thrilled we were to undergo this rigorous assessment, as I knew the poor results would give the school the motivation it needed to improve.
To my amazement the WSE report said that our school was excellent. I looked up the WSE results for other schools on education.ie. Incredibly, according to the Department of Education reports, nearly every school in Ireland is good or excellent. This is despite Ireland having a literacy and numeracy crisis, plus one of the lowest levels of foreign-language skills in Europe. Our poor standard of education is not helped by the fact that we have one of the shortest school terms in the world, with short working days.
These WSE reports are all too reminiscent of the time when the financial regulator reported that our banks were fine or when our financial mandarins congratulated themselves on their excellent performance, months before we lost our financial sovereignty.
The WSE reports are full of warm, woolly waffle, with little analysis of academic performance. Across the WSE reports you will see virtually no critical analysis of teaching or school standards. Everything in the garden is rosy.
There is a sense that the inspectors – mostly ex-teachers – fear upsetting former colleagues. There is no sense that they are interested in working on behalf of parents who want the full, unvarnished truth, good or bad, about their children’s schools.
Parents are the primary educators. They need to present their children to school at a healthy weight (overweight children do poorly at school), remove TVs from bedrooms (children with a TV in their bedroom suffer more depression and have lower academic results) and monitor homework. But – and this is critical – they also need an objective assessment of a teacher’s performance. We should not always be asked to assume that teacher knows best. Education should be a partnership between teacher, school and parent.
Finally, the WSE reports need to include the most basic and important data: what is the level of literacy and numeracy of each primary school?
This column is designed to give a voice to those within the education system who wish to speak out anonymously. Contributions are welcome; email firstname.lastname@example.org