School inspectors are making a regular return to schools in the north and north east in a matter of weeks.
Education Scotland officials have largely stayed away since the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020.
Some already-scheduled visits have taken place at schools where follow-up visits had been arranged last year.
But now Education Scotland officials are to begin visiting schools from next month – but rather than scrutinise teachers they will be offering support.
Last September the education watchdog confirmed it was going to be inspecting schools but this was slammed by the EIS teaching union.
General secretary Larry Flanagan said Education Scotland said the Scottish Government were “deeply out of touch” with the issues facing teachers and schools.
But Education Scotland have since confirmed they will be carrying out so-called “recovery visits”.
This change of tack has been praised by EIS representatives in Aberdeen and the Highlands.
Union officials welcome change
Carole Thorpe from EIS Aberdeen said she was pleased that teachers will not come under scrutiny as they try to deal with Covid-19.
She said teachers in the Granite City have worked “flat-out” during the coronavirus crisis.
Ms Thorpe said: “The EIS was happy to hear the announcement that Education Scotland will not resume ‘scrutiny’ inspections of schools this term.
“We welcome the focus of inspection visits concentrating on ‘recovery’. We feel this will be more supportive to schools as they continue to concentrate on education recovery for young people.
“The Covid pandemic has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on all aspects of school life and it is entirely appropriate that Education Scotland and HM Inspectors should focus their efforts in assisting schools in overcoming the huge challenges that our education system continues to face.
“Our staff in Aberdeen schools have worked flat-out throughout the pandemic in their efforts to deliver a high-quality educational experience for our young people.
“Teachers are already under huge pressure, and the prospect of a return to scrutiny inspections in the New Year had been a source of considerable concern amongst our members.
“It is welcome that these concerns have now been listened to.
“This change in focus will ensure that schools and school staff can continue to concentrate on their most important priority, -ensuring the best possible educational experience for our young people despite the continuing challenge of the Covid pandemic.”
Highland union chief backs focus on recovery
Alistair Bell EIS Highland has also supported the move away from scrutiny at the moment and feels it a “sensible” approach with teachers working “flat out” during the coronavirus crisis.
He said they had already raised concerns with Education Scotland about school inspections and feels the recovery visits is a better approach.
Mr Bell said: “The current pandemic has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on all aspects of school life and we believe it entirely appropriate that Education Scotland, HM Inspectors and by association Highland Council, should focus their efforts in assisting schools to overcome the significant and wide-ranging challenges that schools within the HC area continue to face.
It will ensure that they and their schools can continue to concentrate on their most important priority, which is to ensure the best possible educational experience for our young people despite the continuing challenge of the Covid pandemic.
“Our hope is that information gathered during ‘recovery’ visits by Inspectors will result in any requisite additional support and resources being delivered quickly to schools and Early Learning & Childcare settings to support ongoing education recovery.”
Visits to begin next month
As part of the recovery visits, Education Scotland will not be giving out grades or focusing on any performance indicators.
The first visits are due to take place from mid-February if Covid-19 measures allow.
HM Chief Inspector of Education, Gayle Gorman said they want to hear from teachers during the visits.
She also said they want to learn about any measures that have worked well in schools and they will collect evidence on the kind of learning experienced by young people.
Ms Gorman said: “During visits we will want to hear from educators about how they are addressing the impact of COVID-19.
“We will gather evidence of the range and quality of learning children are experiencing and the school’s approaches to safeguarding.
“We will continue to keep our plans under review to changing circumstances linked to the pandemic that staff and learners may face.”
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