Union clarifies school inspections process with NESA

The IEU has been in discussions with NESA over several weeks to ensure clarity of understanding as to the processes underpinning inspections, both random and cyclical.

Member concerns stemmed from the initial floating of the issue by then Minister Adrian Piccoli in 2016. The Education and Teaching Legislation Amendment Act 2016 provides the legal basis for random inspections of schools (across all sectors) in NSW.

NESA has the responsibility for making recommendations to the minister about the registration of non government schools. It is pertinent to note that systems of non government schools monitor the compliance of member schools. This leads to a particular complexity, as it will be incumbent upon the Union to negotiate a protocol with the 11 Catholic dioceses and other school systems. To expedite this the Union has contacted the Catholic Education Commission with a view to developing an MOU to embrace all the dioceses rather than have a multiplicity of expectations.

It is important that schools derive the intent and carriage of an inspection from the registration manual – Registration Systems and Member Non-Government Schools (NSW) Manual. This manual will be updated in light of the current negotiations and will provide considerable clarity. Systems of schools will develop a particular overlay but should base these expectations on what NESA is actually seeking, rather than generating additional teacher workload.

Critically “the NESA processes have particular regard to minimising any additional administrative burden on either the system or individual schools by utilising any existing or future system processes that serve a similar purpose to the NESA monitoring processes”. This clause, derived from the NESA consultation papers, in particular should be a starting point for a school advised of either a random or cyclical inspection.

The purpose and scope of NESA inspections will, when the consultations with stakeholders concludes, be available on the NESA website and available via your IEU organiser. The purpose of seeking clarity of expectations is to manage workload associated with inspections and simultaneously meet NESA’s legislated requirements.

Random inspections have been a source of concern to IEU members in terms of the short notice period. IEU has established that if a school cannot meet the four day notice provision for legitimate reason then postponement could be negotiated.

Importantly NESA has indicated that a random inspection would take about two hours and does not involve classroom interruption or teacher observation.

A cyclical inspection should take about half a day and similarly does not interrupt teaching and learning.

Inspections of schools in relation to Strand A have commenced this term and Strand B will commence next term. Strand A (2017) is as follows:

safe and supportive environment – child protection, including evidence that all staff who have direct contact with students are informed annually of their reporting obligations and staff engaged in child related work at the school have a working with children check clearance, and

safe and supportive environment – student welfare, with particular regard to policies and procedures for anti bullying or policies and procedures for raising and responding to complaints and grievances from students and /or parents/caregivers.

Strand B relates to the quality of teaching and student learning. A preliminary understanding has been achieved that “the emphasis of this process is the collective quality of teaching provided by a school as opposed to the standard of any one teacher at the school”. Student work samples from a particular KLA in tandem with school programs will inform the inspection team.

Members will be kept abreast of further developments. Additional consultation has been agreed as has the reality that the processes are in a transitional phase with refinement to follow.

Mark Northam
Assistant Secretary