Incidental Inspections

TUI clarification on incidental/unannounced inspections - November 2011
TUI opposed the introduction of incidental inspections believing that the pre-existing inspections are sufficient. Despite the Union’s objections, the Department of Education and Skills confirmed its intention to proceed to conduct such inspections in second-level schools and centres for education from October 2011.

What does an incidental inspection refer to?

The term incidental inspection refers to an unannounced visit to a school/centre by a member of the Inspectorate. One of the purposes of such a visit may be to focus on teaching and learning in the school/centre, in which case teachers may be subject to classroom visits by the inspector.

When can an incidental inspection take place?

It can take place at any time during the school/centre year. Inspections in the first two weeks in September are not anticipated. TUI sought that the last term be excluded due to exam pressures on teachers. This was rejected.

Is this mode of inspection in any way connected with any disciplinary process or issues related to professional competence/performance?

No. Nothing in this process can relate in any way to disciplinary procedures or to the assessment of professional competence/performance. No issue can arise from these inspections that will impact on or initiate procedures related to these issues; such procedures are entirely separate from incidental inspections.

How does the school/centre find out about the incidental visit?

The inspector(s) arrives at the school/centre at the beginning of the school/centre day and reports to the Principal/Co-ordinator to advise of the purpose of the visit.

Can the Principal/Co-ordinator refuse to see the inspector or advise him/her to leave the school/centre?

No, under the Education Act (1998), the board and staff of a school/centre must give members of the Inspectorate every reasonable facility and co-operation in fulfilling their duties.

Are there any circumstances in which a Principal/Co-ordinator could seek that the incidental inspection does not proceed?

The inspector will take unusual circumstances into account such as flooding, fire or a tragedy and may cancel the inspection or make allowances.

How soon will teachers know that they will be visited by the inspector?

The inspector will review the timetable on arrival and advise the Principal/Co-ordinator which classes are to be visited.

The Principal/Co-ordinator should make every effort to advise the teacher at least 40 minutes before the visit takes place. This amount of notice will not be possible for the first teacher selected.

Can the Principal/Co-ordinator influence the inspector on which teachers to visit?

No, the Principal/Co-ordinator cannot direct the inspector in any way on this issue. However, the Principal/Co-ordinator has a responsibility to inform the inspector of any changes occurring in the timetable that day e.g. particular classes out of school/centre or particular teachers away on school/centre business or in-service. The inspector may not request any changes to the planned schedule that day.

Can any teacher have a visit to their classroom during the inspection?

Any teacher apart from student teachers or short term substitute teachers can be visited.

Will every teacher be visited during the inspection visit?

No. An incidental inspection will typically last one day; it is highly unlikely that all teachers will be visited.

How long will the inspector stay in a particular class?

The inspector will normally stay for the whole class which may involve more than one class period in some cases, e.g. art, metalwork.

Can a teacher be visited in more than one class during the day?

Yes, this is possible. If the inspector decides to follow particular class groups, programmes or a student with special needs some teachers may find they are timetabled for more than one of the class groups/periods to be visited. TUI sought that the inspector would not follow a teacher. This was agreed.

Can a teacher arrive into school/centre and be advised an inspector will visit them for their first teaching period of the day?

Yes, if a teacher’s first timetabled session is later than the commencement of the school/centre day they may be visited in their first teaching period. However, the inspector will review the timetable to select which classes to visit at the beginning of the day. In addition, at an agreed time during the day the inspector will give oral feedback to the teachers visited. Therefore, classroom visits can not take place during the first timetabled period of the day and are unlikely to take place during the last timetabled period of the day.

What documentation should be available for the inspector?

Requests for written documentation will be minimal.

The Principal will be required to provide the inspector with a copy of the school timetable and any adjustment relevant to the day. (Where the focus of the incidental inspection is other than teaching and learning, the Principal/Co-ordinator will be expected to have available relevant documents, such as copies of school policies, attendance records, school plan).

A teacher should be able to provide the inspector with the current year and term plan for the subject/programme and class group visited. A teacher will not be expected to have written lesson plans available for individual lessons.

A teacher will be expected to show evidence of planning for lesson(s) being taught during the visit. Each teacher will have their own individual style in this regard. A teacher may provide some written material as evidence of planning. The inspector will focus on observing the actual teaching and learning. It is accepted by the inspectorate that a well delivered class is evidence of planning.

What will be involved in the observation of teaching and learning?

The inspector will be observing preparation for teaching based on the content, structure, pacing, methodology and assessment procedures. The focus is on the lesson being taught and the overall classroom interaction and engagement in this regard. As the inspector may not be an expert in the subject being taught, he/she will not address subject specific issues.

What is meant by interacting with students and reviewing students’ work?

The inspector may interact with students during the lesson for example by asking questions about the content of the lesson. They may also review students’ written/project work.

Will the inspector make written notes in each classroom and for what purpose?

Yes, these will be used to support specific oral feedback to the teacher and general feedback to the Principal/Co-ordinator. They may also feed into more generic reports on practices, observed across a range of schools/centres. Individual schools, centres or teachers will not be identifiable.

Will a Principal/Co-ordinator be given specific feedback on an individual teacher’s performance?

No, the feedback to the Principal/Co-ordinator will be oral and will be general in nature.

Will the VEC/Board of Management receive a report and from whom?

The VEC/Board will be given an oral report by the Principal/Co-ordinator which will be general in nature – individual teachers will not be the subject of any discussion as a result.

Will a written report on a school be prepared and available to the public?

No, incidental inspections, unlike subject inspections or whole school evaluations, will not lead to written published reports on individual schools/centres.