Education Workforce Council

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Meilyr Rowlands – Inspection for future generations

Meilyr RowlandsEstyn is committed to ensuring that learners are at the heart of education and training in Wales. We strongly believe that inspection should be a way to drive improvement throughout the education system and to be of benefit to the schools, colleges and other organisations we visit. This focus on the learner and an emphasis on supporting improvement underpins the in-depth review that we are currently engaged in, which looks at how we will inspect from September 2017 onwards.

There are a number of reasons for holding this review. Since regular inspection of providers was first introduced in 1992, there have been four revisions of our inspection arrangements. The timing of the current review has been influenced by the major changes happening now in the education landscape in Wales. These changes include a complete revision of the curriculum and assessment arrangements for schools and also the new approach to professional learning that is the ‘New Deal for the Education Workforce’.

We aim to continue to provide a fit-for-purpose common inspection framework which will be used across nearly all the providers Estyn inspects. The framework will need to be flexible enough to apply across all sectors, but also to have enough commonality to be recognisably consistent. The outcomes of our review will contribute to Estyn’s continuing effort to make inspection more accurate, valid and cost effective and to increase the confidence that providers, policy makers and the general public have in education and training in Wales.

Guiding principles

We have developed a set of guiding principles which we consider carefully as we develop our new arrangements.

Meilyr blog infographic

Many of these principles already exist in our work, but if we are to improve the effectiveness of inspection, we can strengthen some areas.

Our new arrangements need to work in practice now, but also be agile enough to reflect any changes to the educational landscape in future. We want them to be more proportionate so that they do not overburden good providers, yet still provide challenge and important support for those in most need. Importantly, we want to encourage innovation and creativity through inspection.

There are some very strong features in our current arrangements. We would like to build on these, particularly the involvement of current practitioners, including ‘peer inspectors’, and the focus on the provider’s self-evaluation as a starting point. We also need to ensure inspections are streamlined and cost effective, of course.

The new framework must be manageable and focus on key education issues. Finally, we want to be more preventative, ensuring that our link inspector work, core inspections and follow-up activity all contribute to the educational improvement journey of our schools and other providers in a timely way.

Consultation with stakeholders

We have just finished analysing the views of 2,000 people with an interest in education, who responded to our consultation on the future of inspection. We were delighted that such a large number of professionals responded, as well as learners, parents, policy officials and hard-to-reach groups. You can find the full analysis on the Estyn website.

The feedback indicated that the majority of people were generally content with the current inspection processes. But there were plenty of thought-provoking comments and suggestions that have helped us to shape some new ideas on how we could move forward with inspection.

We shared our early thinking at our National Stakeholder Forum in late February and we continue to welcome feedback as part of our conversations throughout the coming year. So, what might stay the same and what might change?

How we inspect

There was largely good support to:

  • Have a common but slimmer core inspection with a broadly representative annual sample
  • Keep or reduce the notice period somewhat (currently 4 weeks)
  • Keep peer inspectors and nominees but review the role of lay inspectors
  • Keep parent and learner questionnaires and introduce staff and governor questionnaires

The Common Inspection Framework

There were mixed views about the areas we inspect. Based on your feedback we are thinking about five possible main areas of focus for the future:

  • standards
  • teaching and learning experiences
  • wellbeing and attitudes to learning
  • care support and guidance
  • leadership and management

We are also thinking about introducing a sixth additional ‘thematic’ focus, which will change over time. This would help to future-proof inspection.


We are likely to keep four judgements. These could be used to judge each focus, except the thematic focus. There was some support for keeping a summary judgement as well. There was feedback from the consultation that we needed to review the descriptors for ‘Excellent’ and ‘Adequate’, which we will do.

The inspection report
The majority of people (60%) felt that inspection reports are timely, clear and easy to understand, offer a clear indication of strengths and weaknesses and help providers to improve. Suggestions were made about improving the relevance of the report to each provider and ensuring everyone, including parents and learners, can easily digest the reports.

Follow up after inspection

Based on feedback in relation to follow up activity in schools, we are thinking about removing the category of ‘local authority monitoring’. More generally, we will aim to develop more flexible and supportive approaches to providers in follow up.

Looking ahead

In our national stakeholder forum there was lots of positive debate around these ideas and some interesting questions will help us to refine the ideas further. For example:

  • How do we ensure that inspection supports innovation within providers?
  • How do we know how well learners achieve the four purposes?
  • How do we make our follow up work more supportive so that it complements the work of local authorities and regional consortia in driving school improvement?
  • How do we capture the progress that learners make throughout their education better?
  • What inspection activities help us to best capture the quality of teaching and learning across a provider?

We would like to continue our engagement with stakeholders as we develop our ideas over the next few months. In Autumn 2016, we will be piloting some of the new inspection arrangements and there will be further consultation on the proposed changes. We’ll be keeping stakeholders fully up-to-date as we move through the process. The best way to receive news is to sign up for updates on the Estyn website.

Estyn is proud to be part of a strong, resilient and optimistic education system in Wales, rising to the challenge of improving standards for all our learners. Education will continue to evolve. For those currently working in education or those about to take up a career in teaching, there will always be new ideas, policies, initiatives and structures. It is vital that inspection keeps pace with these changes and by September 2017 we will be rolling out our new inspection arrangements.

Meilyr Rowlands – HMCI

The appointment, functions and powers of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales (HMCI) are determined by legislation: in the Education Act 2005, the Learning and Skills Act 2000 and the Children Act 2004. His statutory position is set out in the Government of Wales Act 2006.

Meilyr Rowlands is responsible for the inspection and regulation of education and training in Wales, as well as the management, staffing and organisation of Estyn. He provides independent advice to the Minister which contributes to the development and review of policy in Wales. Meilyr also plays a key role in working closely with the other inspection, audit and regulation bodies in Wales, to underpin joint planning and working. In addition, as Estyn’s Accounting Officer he ensures that resources are used properly and provide value for money. The Chief Inspector also publishes an Annual Report on the standards and quality of education and training in Wales.

Welsh speaking, Meilyr was educated at Amman Valley Comprehensive School and Jesus College, Oxford. After a period of research, he taught science at comprehensive schools in North Wales, and then became a lecturer in education at Bangor University and at UWIC, where he was director of the PGCE secondary course.

Meilyr joined Estyn in 1999 and has held several posts including those of District Inspector, Managing HMI and Strategic Director. Before joining Estyn he was a Registered Inspector for the primary and secondary sectors.