Inspectorate research September-December 2020

Inspectorate research September-December 2020

Dear Partner,

First of all, I wish to acknowledge the enormous work undertaken by school leaders, teachers and school communities to reopen schools safely and the continuing commitment demonstrated by school communities since the start of the school year in ensuring that students have been able to resume learning in a safe environment. Without the commitment of school leaders, teachers, board members and parents, none of this would have been possible. I also want to thank partner organisations for the way in which you have collaborated closely with the Inspectorate and Department in this period.

As we outlined in a circular to schools last June, ( Circular Letter 0041/2020 ), the focus of the Inspectorate’s work during this term is on supporting and advising school communities in their work to resume teaching and learning safely. We have already engaged in online and face-to-face advisory visits in several hundred schools. Through this engagement, we have sought to support school leaders and their teams and the sessions have also deepened our understanding of the successes and challenges facing schools as they operate this term.

One of the other important tasks that we have been asked to do is to gather information from a range of stakeholders in schools about how schools are doing in the exceptional circumstances of this year. Primarily, the information from this research will be fed back to the staff of the Department so that the most appropriate range of supports can be offered to schools at this extraordinarily difficult time. The research will also help us to identify and disseminate effective practice in the interest of supporting schools during the year. The findings of the research will complement findings from other components of the Inspectorate’s engagement with schools during this term, including our work on advising and supporting the safe reopening of schools.

The research will include some surveys of principals, teachers, parents and students in a sample of primary, post-primary and special schools. Capturing the perspectives of the range of stakeholders will provide very valuable insights into how well things are going in the current school year and into the particular needs of each group of respondents in relation to wellbeing, teaching and learning and arrangements in relation to COVID-19. The surveys will be very brief and will only take a few minutes for each respondent to complete. The surveys are completely anonymous and findings will be reported in an aggregated way; individual schools will not be identified.

The first phase of the surveys will commence today, Monday 19th October; further phases may follow in November and December. The first survey phase will provide an opportunity for schools and national stakeholders to provide feedback on the question sets which will usefully inform any further surveys. The surveys will be administered online and links to the surveys will be forwarded to respondents via the school with the support of school management. Links to student surveys will be forwarded to parents via the school and parents will be asked where relevant to facilitate their child’s completion of the survey. A different sample of schools will be used in the case of each group of respondents. For example, the initial phase in the coming week will involve the administration of parent surveys, student surveys and teacher surveys in a separate sample each of 50 schools that includes primary, post-primary and special schools. The surveys of principals will be administered in separate samples of 50 primary and special schools and 50 postprimary schools. Participation by schools in the surveys will be voluntary and inspectors will be in contact by phone with principals in participating schools to discuss the surveys and make the necessary arrangements.

We greatly appreciate the co-operation of schools and all stakeholders with this work.


Yours sincerely,
Harold Hislop
Chief Inspector