Dáil Éireann - Volume 607 - 11 October, 2005
Written Answers. - Schools Evaluation.
Mr. McEntee Mr. McEntee
28. Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department will be bringing forward proposals for the release of information on the operation of schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27560/05]
Ms Hanafin Ms Hanafin
Ms Hanafin: As the Deputy will be aware, I am determined to provide more information, for parents in particular, about our schools, in a way that ensures a fair and comprehensive picture of all the different activities in a school.
As I have said on many occasions, I am strongly opposed to the publication of crude league tables based solely on examination or test results. Such tables provide an unbalanced and grossly limited indication of a school’s performance.
In contrast to school league tables, I believe that school inspection reports from whole school evaluations, WSE, and other inspections, when read in their entirety, can provide balanced and well-informed information on schools. The whole school evaluation process involves an examination of all the varied activities of a school — from the quality of teaching and learning to the availability of extra-curricular activities and the implementation of policies in areas such as bullying, and health and safety. The inspection process also includes consultation with the school’s board, parents and staff members, and, at second level, with the school’s students.
 WSE reports can, therefore, provide valuable information on the educational and social opportunities provided by a school. The comments that they contain are also fully sensitive to the context in which the school operates in a way that is not possible with league tables.
Given the breadth of the contents of WSE reports, the publication of these and other school inspection reports could go a significant way to addressing the real needs of parents, students, teachers and others for better information on schools. The type of information provided in WSE reports will help parents who need accurate and balanced information. WSE reports also contain valuable information that will be of interest to schools who may wish to learn from the experience of others.
I am determined to progress this matter in a sensible and responsible way and to ensure that the views of all the education partners are considered before the publication process is finalised.
During the summer, I put in place a mechanism whereby this can take place. The inspectorate of my Department has held no less than 20 meetings with interested parties over the past month, and is currently preparing draft guidelines for the publication of inspection reports which will be circulated shortly to the education partners. Responses to the draft guidelines will then be sought and a final draft of the proposals will be submitted to me in December.
I intend that the publication of school inspection reports will commence from January 2006 for all inspections carried out from the start of the calendar year 2006.
While I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of the consultation process, I would like to say the discussions held to date have been very fruitful and constructive. I know that each of the partners realises the need to address the information deficit that exists at present in terms of ensuring full public access to balanced information on schools. This is especially important to those, who like myself, are opposed to the publication of league tables and want to find a better way.
I was very disappointed to hear the Deputy say over the summer that she is in favour of the publication of exam results by schools. While I appreciate that she also said she is not in favour of league tables, I believe it is naive to think that the publication of each school’s examination results would not lead to exactly that.
I am confident the considered and responsible approach that we are taking to the publication of inspection reports will lead to much greater availability of information on schools without inadvertently pitting schools serving entirely different communities against each other in crude comparisons of academic performance alone.
Dáil Éireann 607 Written Answers. Schools Evaluation.