Ulster Unionist MLA, Danny Kinahan has welcomed the publication of the annual report on school inspections but has said that a complete review of how the body carries out its role is now required.
The South Antrim representative, who is also Vice-Chairman of the Education Committee said;
It is essential that the inspectorate is totally independent of the department and despite assurances that it is, it does seem that the Department and the Minister have had too much interference. It is vital that the inspectorate acts to show that it is completely independent of the Department and the Minister.
The inspectorate needs to adopt a completely new approach to school inspections whilst still keeping a means to deal quickly and efficiently with failing schools but adopting a less blunt and impersonal manner. It needs to become more of an assessment body, one which develops on-going relationships with schools and which offers them the stability of being part of a routine set of checks carried out on a regular time interval.
The pressure put on head teachers and principals and their senior staff by the present system is unacceptable and needs to be overhauled.
At present the system is dangerously exposed to manipulation and political interference. I have heard of incidences where staff uncomfortable with their own disciplinary failures or possible threat of redundancy could have manipulate the inspection system for their own means.
The whole system must be reviewed.