Distributed Evaluation and Planning in Irish Schools

Citation: Brown, M., McNamara, G., O’Hara, J. O'Brien, S. and Skerritt, C. (2017) Evaluation and Distributed Evaluation and Planning Strategies (DEAPS) in Irish Schools (Working Paper No.1).  Retrieved from Erasmus+ Distributed Evaluation and Planning in Schools (DEAPS) website: https://www.deaps.net/deapsie

Introduction and Background

 

Decentralisation and the subsequent drive to more actively include citizens in decision-making processes have become part of the discourse of public sector reform in most European countries and across various public-sector services such as the healthcare and education sector (Beckmann, Cooper, and Hill 2009, Verger, and Curran 2014). This policy direction can serve a variety of purposes such as reducing state bureaucracy, improvement by both regulation and competition, and ‘stakeholder’ voice and choice (Brown et al. 2016a). In the education sector, for example, while accountability through the process of school inspection remains central in most OECD countries inspection models have been adapted as education accountability systems mature. As schools and their stakeholders develop evaluation literacy and innovation capacity to improve education in their own organisations, they have less need of being driven by top-down inspections and reform initiatives (Brown et al. 2016b). This has resulted in a dual system of participatory internal/external evaluation that is now being used in most OECD countries (Santiago 2013). In the case of Ireland, while inspection is a long-established process of evaluation that dates back to the nineteenth century (Brown et al., 2016c); changes to inspection in recent years have led to the introduction of a range of inspection models such as subject and whole school evaluation which aim to provide a more targeted and efficient approach to quality assuring education provision in primary and post-primary schools (Department of Education, 2016). The introduction of mandatory School Self-Evaluation (SSE) in 2012 (Department of Education, 2012) has also provided the education system with a more cost-effective approach to school improvement while simultaneously acting as a critical improvement mechanism for the whole school community. However, as with any new initiative, this dual mandated mode of internal/external evaluation is not without its implementation challenges (O’Brien et al. 2015) particularly when, as with other countries, the role of stakeholders such as parents and students are concerned (Verger, and Curran 2014).

 

This overview of DEAPS firstly describes the nature of compulsory education in Ireland before describing inspection and SSE frameworks that are currently in operation in Irish primary and post-primary schools. Both evaluation processes are described and discussed with reference to the involvement of parents and students. The second part explores the growing emphasis on student and parent voice in compulsory education. Finally, the study concludes with a discussion of key challenges for stakeholder voice in education, a development which in the absence of clearly defined strategies to address the ‘stakeholder gap’, will arguably remain a stifled educational reform initiative within the future landscape of Irish education.

 

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