Dáil Éireann - Volume 643 - 11 December, 2007

Written Answers. - School Inspectors.

Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science the duties and responsibilities of primary school inspectors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [33446/07]

  Deputy Mary Hanafin: The Inspectorate is a division within the Department of Education and Science and at present has a complement of over 160 primary and post-primary inspectors. While inspectors are generally recruited to work in either the primary or the post-primary sector, the work of the Inspectorate is managed as a unified service headed by the Chief Inspector. The Inspectorate has a statutory quality assurance remit in relation to educational provision in primary and post-primary schools as set out under Section 13 of the Education Act 1998. The annual inspection programme includes mainstream evaluation of the work of teachers and schools, and thematic evaluations of particular aspects of educational provision.

[804] In accordance with Section 13 of the Education Act the roles and functions of inspectors include the following:

to support and advise recognised schools, teachers and Boards of Management on matters relating to the provision of education,

to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the provision of education in the State,

to conduct research into education and to support policy formulation,

to evaluate the effectiveness of the teaching, development, promotion and use of Irish in schools, and

to advise on any matter relating to education policy and provision, including curriculum, assessment and teaching methods.

The Rules for National Schools provide further detail in relation to the regulations underpinning the inspection of schools and teachers at primary level. A major part of an inspector’s work is the external evaluation of schools through Whole School Evaluation (WSE). A primary inspector may work alone or as part of an inspection team to evaluate the school under the areas of management, planning, curriculum provision, teaching and learning, and student support.

Another major part of the work of primary inspectors is the inspection of probationary teachers Because I have been able to increase the numbers of teachers at primary level at an unprecedented rate in recent years, the number of newly qualified teachers in primary schools has risen rapidly. As a consequence, the evaluation of newly qualified primary teachers now represents a very significant element of the overall inspection programme at primary level. For example, during the school year 2007/2008 primary inspectors will conduct inspections and report on more than 2,500 primary teachers on probation. In addition to mainstream evaluation activity inspectors are involved in conducting in-depth thematic evaluations which examine the quality of selected educational programmes or services across a sample of schools.

All reports arising from WSE inspections or thematic inspections are published on the internet website of the Department of Education and Science. Between June 2006 and mid-December 2007 the Inspectorate will have published 1401 reports on 862 different primary and post-primary schools or centres for education on the Department’s website. 284 of these reports are Primary WSE Reports. In addition to the formal inspection activity I have outlined, primary inspectors sit on appeals committees dealing with cases taken under Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998. They are also engaged in developing evaluative instruments and undertaking research. Inspectors also provide policy advice in relation to the following:- initial teacher education, induc[805] tion and in-career development,- the implementation of school/teacher curriculum support programmes and initiatives,- teacher qualifications — curriculum and assessment issues,- the teaching of Irish, and — special education.

Senior inspectors assigned to my Department’s Regional Offices throughout the country provide support and advice of a regional nature, liaising with educational bodies and educational providers within the regional catchment areas. They also undertake some evaluations of centres for education and manage the visiting teacher services.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 58.