New Policy Scotland Paper: COVID-19: Do we need to re-imagine the purpose of school inspections?

Issued: Tue, 04 Aug 2020 21:00:00 BST

School of Education and Policy Scotland’s Professor Chris Chapman, along with Professor Melanie Ehren, Director of Research Institute LEARN!, and Professor Carmen Montecinos of the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso today published a paper, entitled COVID-19: do we need to reimagine the purpose of school inspections?

For the time being regular school inspections have stopped in many countries. Given that it is not ‘business as usual’, should we ‘inspect’ schools, and if so, for what purpose?

This question was discussed in a webinar with 35 delegates from inspectorates of education in 12 countries, with further validation of the findings presented in an online participant check. The outcomes of the webinar indicate a change in inspection purpose where, during the pandemic and school closures, ‘support and improvement’ and ‘liaison’ were at the forefront of the work of Inspectorates of Education.

This paper presents examples of how these functions were put in place between March and July 2020.

Significant challenges to education

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis that has presented significant challenges to education systems. These have included whole system shutdown of schools, the cancelling of national exams and a shift to distance and digital learning. For the time being regular school inspections have stopped in many countries.

Without inspection and assessment there is a lack of: standardised information on whether and how pupils are learning and how they are currently being educated; how parents are coping with home-schooling; to what extent and how schools are teaching online and how they are supporting parents in their new role as ‘teachers’.

A good understanding of whether and how learners are taught – either through home-schooling, online teaching or blended modes of learning- and where this is– or isn’t– working well enables a sharing of good practice across the country. Additionally, it can highlight issues of equity to which educational policymakers and practitioners should respond.

When schools are (partially) closed, ‘quality of education’ takes on a different form and meaning and roles and responsibilities of those tasked with teaching, learning and leading changes.

Specifically, the questions the webinar explored were :

  1. Do we need to rethink the purpose of inspection during and (immediately) after the pandemic?
  2. How can Inspectorates of education be relevant to schools, parents, learners and policy-makers in a time of school closure and when schools are (partially) reopening?

To cite this article: Ehren, M.C.M., Chapman, C., and Montecinos, C., COVID-19: do we need to reimagine the purpose of school inspections? ICSEI internal report, Policy Scotland, 4 August 2020

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