Honourable Mentions

The following comments have been gleaned from the 2007/8 evaluation reports on the process that schools complete after an evaluation.

The evaluation as a whole

  • The evaluation definitely stimulated more enthusiasm regarding teaching and learning; it was extremely encouraging to be reaffirmed in the good efforts and accomplishments over ten years of existence.
  • I believe this evaluation marks a turning point for our school in terms of attitude to self-evaluation and achieving best practice.
  • It helped us to unpack practices that were in place and to plan for policies where there were gaps.
  • It matched expectations and placed emphasis on self-evaluation.
  • We find ourselves saying all the time: 'Remember what IQAA showed us with this and with that…
  • It has made us scrutinise our policies and hidden curriculum.
  • I'm hoping [evaluatory practices have] moved from a feeling of being 'policed' to being part of 'quality steps'.
  • It definitely exceeded expectations. It can only lead to better things ahead.
  • An excellent, professional evaluation experience for all of us, and it exceeded our expectations by far.
  • The process has been an eye-opener as there were many areas that needed improvement. It also served to unite all stakeholders in the school in a positive manner.
  • It was a very productive and meaningful experience - we enjoyed it very much.
  • Watching the process unfold and take shape was exciting. At first it seemed that the evaluation and report were unwieldy; too exacting; but as it slowly took shape from survey, to committee, to report, an order grew.
  • While an exercise such as this is accompanied by much anxiety at all levels in a school, such soul searching can be constructive and the entire process was one of raising the bar for [the school]…The unexpected outcome was that the process was minimally disruptive, though effectively intrusive and brought to the surface issues needing to be explored.
  • The IQAA process was most enjoyable and one that allowed us to look at ourselves. The exercise exceeded my expectations.
  • Different to expectations but extremely well formulated…Initially it was viewed as an inspection rather than an assessment with guidance despite the fact that [our staff member who was at a training workshop] told us continually not to view it as a dreaded inspection.

Staff

  • Staff were initially in awe of the process as most had never done anything like this before. Soon however they contributed enthiusiastically. Though seeing evaluation initially as intimidating, the staff were excited by evaluating our school in its entirety.
  • Staff were initially not happy, but after the observation week they agreed it had great value and want to continue a similar type of observation every year.
  • It created a very positive attitude amongst the staff - excellent co-operation and willingness to learn from the process.
  • A powerful catalyst in terms of bringing the whole staff together and understanding of what actual issues face this school.
  • The angst of being evaluated was diminished and the rest of the staff also developed an appreciation of the benefits of being evaluated.
  • The staff were apprehensive at first but by the second day they were very excited and involved.
  • The staff felt that they were valued members of the team, that if they had an opinion they could raise it; it seemed to empower the staff. They felt validated.
  • Initially they embraced the idea very positively, due to the manner in which it was first presented. As the evaluation grew closer, they were apprehensive, but once the class visits were under way, they were comfortable.

But:

  • Even though the staff were informed that the appraisal was in no way linked to individuals, many were very anxious.
  • Although well prepared there was an uncomfortable mood throughout the evaluation process.

Parents

  • Parents appear to have enjoyed the process and many have embraced it as one way of supporting the school. We did have a few very negative parents who I believe used the evaluation as a grievance mechanism and are waiting to see if their often unrealistic suggestions have been fulfilled.

But most schools reported that parents were in a range between helpful if directly asked and not particularly interested.

Learners

  • The learners involved in the focus group were very happy with the meeting. A comment was: 'They really listened to us.'

For the most part learners were like the parents in their involvement and reaction.

Follow-up

  • The staff feel there is a need for regular internal evaluation in a similar spirit as the one done, as it was very positive and uplifting.
  • Class visits have become a regular activity and bottom-up evaluation is happening in many spheres.
  • The teachers appreciated the peer evaluations and want to do more of them.
  • A process has been started which will be continued in future years. As this is an ongoing process, the synergy that developed brought a camaraderie and a desire to improve that will be seen in the future vision of the principal, deputies and staff.
  • Almost to a person, the teaching staff agreed that the process is only at the beginning and we are already well into the celebrations, discussions and strategic planning that have grown out of the week. To quote one teacher: 'We could say that the founding of [the school] was the Friday that the visit ended because it was then that we really became one school.'
  • Introspective nature of assessment will have lasting effect - to be used annually in one or more areas of the school.

The evaluation team

  • The team found the process to be stimulating, meaningful and enriching.
  • One of the aspects that amazed me was the development of the team during the process.

Load

  • Hard on the heels of Umalusi evaluation [it] was a heavy work load.
  • Compliance - We had worked hard on a great deal of this with Umalusi.
  • We are of the opinion that it puts too much strain on a school to have an IQAA and Umalusi evaluation in one year.
  • The amount of time spent on the evaluation and the disruption to the school curriculum during the process may outweigh the potential outcome.
  • I would very much hope that, in future, Umalusi will delegate QA fuction in independent schools to IQAA. Two such exercises in a year have tended to distract from our core business.
  • We were pleased to wrap up the evaluation process as it does involve many additional hours; however, it has certainly lifted the school to another level.

Other schools

  • I cannot understand why some schools are so reluctant to get involved in this process.
  • It has been an invaluable exercise, one that I would highly recommend to other schools.
  • It is a process I would recommend all schools to go through.

Mentors

  • We would not have managed without [his] contribution!
  • Kept the team positive, valuable, part of team, reassuring, structured, not overbearing or intimidating, well paced.
  • Constructive, worthwhile, valuable, considered opinions, objective, balanced judgment.
  • Our mentor was crucial to the success of our evaluation. The evaluation process would have been a lot more daunting without her generous support and understanding.
  • The mentor became a friend of the school and was a huge support to [the team leader]…She pointed out that we were selling ourselves short.
  • Our mentor was great. He kept our team focused on the important issues.
  • She provided a great deal of wisdom and perspective…Her vast experience of the process ensured that we never felt uncertain about things.
  • [We] appreciate the sensitive yet firm approach taken which exposes weaknesses with a view to helping to build strength.
  • [We] thank her for the positive role that she played and for her patience and understanding.
  • Positive contribution. Professional attitude. Calming presence.
  • Wise, generous and sensitive…She helped us to recognise the many things we do really well which offset our natural instinct to be self-critical.
  • The mentor had a non-judgmental supportive attitude and was always positive and encouraging.
  • She has a very objective eye and did everything with so much tact and support. She encouraged us to be very positive and not look for fault or blame. She allowed us to experience a major learning curve.
  • [She] has an amazing grasp, of the process and steered us back on track when I lost my way…a calm and focused manner.
  • Her wealth of experience and insight into education itself, as well as her professional yet empathetic approach to the evaluation process has been inspirational to our IQAA team.
  • They developed a non-threatening atmosphere in the school and gave constructive advice.
  • [He] was at all times a most supportive, kind and appreciative mentor.
  • We had a wonderful mentor who helped us in so many positive ways. She always encouraged us and gave us advice, assistance and enthusiastic appreciation of our school.
  • Our mentor has a wealth of experience and gave helpful advice.
  • Very friendly and supportive - wonderful people.
  • Excellent but not prescriptive - very supportive and encouraging.
  • Unthreatening, constructive - [she] brought a cheerful energy and vision to the task.
  • [She] had a subtle way of bringing up matters which led to introdspection as opposed to imposition. She tended to lead the team by facilitating discussions and guiding them to open-ended solutions for perusal… She managed to creep into the hearts of the staff, as well as the students.
  • [She] has been superb - insightful, helpful, sensitive and above all, positive and encouraging.

But, also a few, very few, some of them actually contrary to the IQAA objective, such as:

  • Very little guidance, left mostly to our own devices.
  • Would have preferred more feedback on educational matters,
  • [Would have liked] more prompt replies to e-mails.
  • There was incorrect and uncertain information from the mentor.
  • The mentor was unsure of her role.
  • Mentors should have experience of the phase being observed.
  • More feedback on individual lessons wanted, and more guidance and recommendations from mentors.
  • More common purpose among mentors needed [in school with more than one mentor].

Nice ones

  • Evaluations exceeded expectations and this was expected.
  • We looked at things through different glasses.
  • It has been interesting walking round the school with [the mentor] and seeing our school through different eyes.
  • Awareness of the necessity to continually self evaluate was created. [And from the same school in response to the question: Have the evaluatory attitudes and practices withinn the school…been improved?...] No, as we do not need to as it was already happening and will continue to do so.

Some suggestions

Note: The following are not direct quotations.

  • There should be names on 'questionnaires' as anonymous comments have little validity. · Clearer guidelines needed on reports and on Model A programme. [Already altered by IQAA.] · Comparison wanted with other ISASA schools. [This is not IQAA policy.] · Need for assistance with domestic staff interviews - language.

About IQAA

  • IQAA is an independent agency available to provide quality assurance of any school through the process it has developed. IQAA’s watchword is Assisting Schools To Keep Growing Quality.

Contact Details

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    Fax: 021 685 4195

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    Phone: 021 6854258

    Fax: 021 685 4195