School inspections pursued

Joan Lemaire
Senior Vice President

Federation has pursued members’ concerns about school inspections directly in meetings with the NSW Education Authority (NESA).

Legislation requires NESA to conduct inspections of a sample of about 40 government schools to provide “independent verification” to the Minister and the Secretary about compliance of the NSW government schooling system with registration requirements similar to that for private systems. These “cyclical” inspections have been conducted by BOSTES since 2015 and NESA will continue these inspections.

The Education and Teaching Legislation Act passed last year gave NESA powers to conduct “random” inspections of both government and non-government schools.

Members have raised concerns about the scope and purpose of both cyclical and random inspections.

In correspondence to the Federation, NESA stated that “it is important to note that the chief focus of inspectors assessing systematic school compliance is on the system rather than individual schools” (italics are our emphasis).

The work of inspectors in conducting either cyclical or random inspections is based on a manual setting out registration requirements. This manual prescribes the evidence NESA inspectors will consider.

NESA has agreed to consult with Federation and other key stakeholders in “drafting revisions to the registration manuals for schools and school systems to better articulate what will be assessed and the evidence required to be provided in relation to the standard of teaching of courses in schools and student engagement in learning when assessing compliance with the requirements for registration”. These consultations will take place in May and June 2017.

Clarifying these issues will be important. Members have reported confusion around inspection requirements has created significant additional workload in terms of gathering evidence. At Federation’s request, NESA has provided a document setting out information about the purpose and scope of inspections both random and cyclical. This document is available on both the NESA website, and also on Federation’s own website.

NESA has stated in a letter to Federation that inspection “processes have particular regard to minimising any additional administrative burden on either the system or individual schools by utilising any existing or future system processes which serve a similar purpose to the NESA monitoring processes”. The Federation will follow up on this in meetings with the Department to seek to reduce duplication and unnecesary workload.

Members have raised issues regarding “random” inspections which will be undertaken in nine government schools in Term 2 with a further nine in Term 3. NESA is required to give a minimum of four days’ notice of these inspections. After Federation raised practical issues around this, NESA clarified that it “will assess requests by schools to adjust the visit date should it not be suitable e.g. postpone the visit to the next day or, in exceptional circumstances, a later time in consultation with the school”.

In Term 2, random inspections will relate to “Strand A requirements” on:

  • “safe and supportive environment — child protection, including evidence that all staff who have direct contact with students are informed annually of their reporting obligations and staff engaged in child-related work at the school have a working with children check clearance; and
  • safe and supportive environment — student welfare, with particular regard to policies and safe procedures for anti-bullying OR policies and procedures for raising and responding to complaints and grievances from students and/or parents/caregivers.”

In order to minimise workload, NESA has also said that “the evidentiary materials to be made available at the inspection are those that could reasonably be expected to be available on a day-to-day basis at a school and consistent with the systems policies, procedures and expectations”.

Federation will be consulted over Strand B requirements for random inspections of nine schools in Term 3.

NESA has indicated a typical schedule for a random inspection would take about two hours with inspectors meeting the principal, reviewing the evidence in relation to the requirements and providing feedback.

If members believe that there is any conflict or concern between the information provided by NESA and the actual inspection they should contact their Organiser. Federation will pursue these issues directly with NESA.

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