The schools are on their October break. I’m working on two major tasks this week. Firstly our department’s Standards and Quality report and secondly, some research and reflection on Curriculum for Excellence
Im taking a similar approach towards the departments S&Q report as I did with a schools. When I was at Dunbar I pulled apart How Good is Our School, identified all the statements which related to very good practice and then compared the school against that standard using all the evidence available. It soon became apparent that there was a need to improve our data collection procedures at school and this led to many of the self-evaluation tools which we successfully developed.
As far as a departments S&Q report goes they often simply report on outcomes of the service improvement plan, national priorities or other specific actions being undertaken by the authority. This differs from an authoritys inspection as the HMIe go into things in much greater depth. One of the problems we face is that the authority inspection process is about to change. However, I believe it is appropriate for us to measure ourselves against the existing standard and use some of the data gathered in that exercise to judge our practice against the new standard when that is published.
Ive taken a number of recent authority HMIe inspection reports, most notably East Renfrewshire and Aberdeenshire and looked at their reports pulling out the key factors which HMIe reported upon. From that analysis Ive identified a series of questions which we might consider and ask a variety of stakeholders to answer. For example, four of the performance indicators are consultation, communication, deployment of and effectiveness of centrally deployed staff, and resource management. The questions which we might ask are as follows:
Does the depertment regularly seek out the views of stakeholders including staff in establishments, school boards, pupils forum, staff and trade unions?
Does the department use a variety of consultation methods including meetings and questionnaires?
Do officers analyse responses to consultation exercises and keep elected members fully informed of the outcomes?
Do stakeholders see that appropriate action is taken in response to consultation exercises?
Does the department ensure that teachers are fully informed and involved in consultation exercises?
Do schools boards and parents representatives feel that they have a chance to influence the aims and plans for education?
Do all staff feel that they are well involved in the decision making process?
Are the Director and Head of Education seen to be readily accessible and responsive to queries?
Do all staff below Head of Education respond speedily to complaints or queries?
Does the department use a range of appropriate methods to communicate with staff and parents?
Does the department make effective use of information and communications technology to communicate with staff?
Is the departments Standards and Quality Report informative and well-presented?
Are all schools Standard and Quality Reports easily available to parent?
Are all schools Standard and Quality Reports of a consistent quality and easily understood?
DEPLOYMENT AND EFFECTIVENESS OF CENTRALLY EMPLOYED STAFF
Is the deployment and effectiveness of centrally employed staff good?
Do education officers have frequent and rigorous contacts with schools?
Do education officers know the schools they are associated with?
Do Headteachers understand the roles of education officers?
Do education officers have a good understanding of their respective areas of responsibility?
Do education officers operate consistently?
Are education officers able to appropriately support and challenge schools where there is obvious underperformance?
Does the pupil support section operate effectively?
Are newly qualified teachers well supported?
Is Continuous Professional Development effectively co-ordinated?
Does the department regularly undertake a Best Value review with a view to improving the service or to make savings to the authority?
Does the department make changes to practice as a consequence of these reviews?
What is the condition of East Lothian schools?
How well are East Lothian schools equipped and provided with facilities well suited to education?
How comprehensive is the Councils asset management strategy?
Has the Council implemented its asset management strategy?
How effective are schools links with property services?
How well does the department carry out its responsibilities in relation to health and safety?
How well has the department implemented the Teachers Agreement?
Does the department ensure that there are sufficient core levels of staffing?
Do support staff feel valued by the department?
Do schools feel that ICT is fully supported by the Councils corporate ICT department?
The other areas are: Vision, values and aims; Effectiveness of leadership and management; Policy development; Service Planning; Financial management; Measuring, monitoring and evaluating performance; and Continuous improvement in performance.
I would suggest that we use the new HMIe six point scale, i.e. Unsatisfactory 1; Fair 2; Adequate 3; Good 4; Very Good 5; Excellent 6, and ask respondents to give their response to each question using the scale.
Id like to set up a draft questionnaire using SELS. In this way we could e-mail all our Headteachers and other major stakeholders, such as a sample of parents and students, provide them with a user name and password and ask them to complete the online questionnaire. The software would automatically process the data and present in a manner which would enable analysis. All this could be completed by the end of next week a task that would normally take between 5-6 weeks and a huge number of admin hours if was a normal paper based questionnaire.
If you are interested in helping us out with this possible survey please get in touch and I will include you in the exercise.
This exercise would prove useful on three counts: 1. provide very robust data upon which we could base our Standards and Quality report and identify points for action; 2. enable us to trial the SELS software and allow Headteachers and others to experience it for themselves; and 3. demonstrate to Headteachers and others that the department is prepared to take a lead in rigorous self-evaluation.