Inspectors and the Process of Self-Evaluation in Ireland

  • Martin BrownEmail author
  • Gerry McNamara
  • Joe O’Hara
  • Shivaun O’Brien
Part of the Accountability and Educational Improvement book series (ACED)


The relationship between school inspection and school self-evaluation in Ireland has shifted from a largely theoretical one to that of a regulatory requirement where schools are mandated to engage with an externally devised process of self-evaluation. The conduct of self-evaluation in schools is quality assured by the inspectorate. It is not clear where this shift will lead in terms of the relationship between schools and inspectors but it seems certain to change the role of the latter to a marked degree. Although laudable in theory, the practical realities and perceptions relating to this new relationship need to be considered. This chapter provides a documentary analysis of the changing landscape of school self-evaluation policy and practice from 2012 onwards and also draws on interview data and a national survey of school principals who have been charged with the implementation of these initiatives.


Accountability Governance School self-evaluation School inspection 


  1. Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2008). Methodological concerns about the education value-added assessment system. Educational Researcher, 37(2), 65–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, R., Crabtree, B., Steele, D., & McDaniel, R. (2005). Case study research: The view from complexity science. Qualitative Health Research, 15(5), 669–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blok, H., Sleegers, P., & Karsten, S. (2008). Looking for a balance between internal and external evaluation of school quality: Evaluation of the SVI model. Journal of Education Policy, 23(4), 379–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, M. (2011, April). The interplay between evaluation and school development planning and improvement. A case study of a board of management in the Republic of Ireland. Paper presented at the Educational Studies Association of Ireland 36th Annual Conference, 14th–16th April 2011. Church of Ireland College of Education, Dublin.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, M. (2013). Deconstructing evaluation in education: The case of Ireland. Ph.D. Thesis, Dublin City University, Ireland.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, M., McNamara, G., & O’Hara, J. (2013, March). Save us from the time of trial. The case of evaluation in education. Paper presented at the Educational Studies Association of Ireland, 38th Annual Conference, Limerick, Ireland.Google Scholar
  7. Bushnell, D. (1990). Input, process, output: A model for evaluating training [electronic version]. Training & Development Journal, 44(3), 41–43.
  8. Cheng, C. (2010). Embedding self-evaluation into school development planning. In Z. Abas, et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Global Learn Asia Pacific, 17–20 May 2010, Penang, Malaysia AACE (pp. 984–992) [online]. Available from: Accessed 1 September 2010.
  9. Cilliers, P. (1998). Complexity and postmodernism: Understanding complex systems. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Creswell, J. W. (2008). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.) [Kindle Edition 1.10.1]. Thousand Oakes, CA: SAGE.Google Scholar
  11. Department of Education and Skills. (2003). Looking at our school, an aid to self-evaluation in second level schools. Dublin: Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  12. Department of Education and Skills. (2012a). School self evaluation guidelines for post-primary schools. Dublin: Evaluation Support and Research Unit Inspectorate. Department of Education and Skills.Google Scholar
  13. Department of Education and Skills. (2012b). School self evaluation guidelines for primary schools. Dublin: Evaluation Support and Research Unit Inspectorate. Department of Education and Skills.Google Scholar
  14. Department of Education and Skills Republic of Ireland. (2012c). Circular 0040/2012, Implementation of school self-evaluation—Post primary. Retrieved March 12, 2015 from
  15. Department of Education and Skills. (2012d). Circular 0039/2012, Implementation of school self-evaluation—Primary, Retrieved 12 April 2015, from
  16. Department of Education and Skills. (2013). Chief Inspector’s Report: 2010–2012. Retrieved, March 5, 2015 from
  17. Department of Education and Skills. (2015a). Meeting of the SSE Advisory Group. Department of Education and Skills, 21st October 2015. Marlborough Street, Dublin [Online]. Retrieved January 5, 2015 from
  18. Department of Education and Skills. (2015b). SSE Survey 2014/15: Results—October 2015. Retrieved January 5, 2015 from
  19. Donaldson, G. (2013). The SICI Bratislava memorandum on inspection and innovation. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from
  20. Ehren, M. C. M., Altrichter, G., McNamara, G., & O’Hara, J. (2013). Impact of schools inspections on improvement of schools—Describing assumptions on casual mechanisms in six European countries. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 25(1), 3–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Elliott, J. (1995). Self-evaluation and teacher competence. Irish Educational Studies, 14, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gorard, S. (2010). Serious doubts about school effectiveness. British Educational Research Journal, 36(5), 745–766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Government of Ireland. (1998). Education Act. Dublin: Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  24. Gray, A. (2014). Supporting school improvement: The role of inspectorates across Europe. A report from the Standing International Conference of Inspectorates (SICI). Brussels: SICI.Google Scholar
  25. Grek, S., Lawn, M., Ozga, J., & Segerholm, C. (2013). Governing by inspection? European inspectorates and the creation of a European education policy space. Comparative Education, 49(4), 486–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Heritage, M., & Yeagley, R. (2005). Data use and school improvement: Challenges and prospects. In J. Herman & E. Haertel (Eds.), Uses and misuses of data for educational accountability and improvement. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, (pp. 320–339). Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hislop, H. (2012). The quality assurance of Irish schools and the role of evaluation: Current and future trends. The Professor Seamus Ó Súilleabháin memorial lecture 2012, 1 May 2012. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from
  28. MacBeath, J. (1999). Schools must speak for themselves: The case for school self-evaluation. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. McNamara, G., & O’Hara, J. (2005). Internal review and self-evaluation: the chosen route to school improvement in Ireland. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 31, 267–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McNamara, G., & O’Hara, J. (2008). The importance of the concept of self-evaluation in the changing landscape of education policy. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 34(3), 173–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McNamara, G., & O’Hara, J. (2012). From looking at our schools (LAOS) to whole school evaluation-management, leadership and learning (WSE-MLL): The evolution of inspection in Irish schools over the past decade. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 24, 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Miles, M., & Huberman, A. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded source book (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Google Scholar
  33. Morgan, J. P. (2002). Multiple choices: Testing students in Tennessee. Nashville, TN: Comptroller of the Treasury, Office of Education Accountability.Google Scholar
  34. Patton, M. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd ed.). California: SAGE.Google Scholar
  35. Perryman, J. (2009). Inspection and the fabrication of professional and performative processes. Journal of Education Policy, 24(5), 611–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Quinn, R. (2012). Irish Government News Service: Minister Ruairí Quinn launches Guidelines on School Self-evaluation [press release], 19 November. Retrieved November 2016 from
  37. Ryan, K., Chandler, M., & Samuels, M. (2007). What should school-based evaluation look like? Studies in Educational Evaluation, 33(3), 197–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Seomra Ranga. (2012). Interview with Harold Hislop, chief inspector DES (Part 1) [Online]. Retrieved April 19, 2012 from
  39. Terhart, E. (2013). Teacher resistance against school reform: Reflecting an inconvenient truth. School Leadership & Management, 33(5), 486–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Vanhoof, J., & Van Petegem, P. (2007). Matching internal and external evaluation in an era of accountability and school development: Lessons from a Flemish perspective. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 33, 101–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Vanhoof, J., Verhaeghe, G., Verhaeghe, J., Valcke, M., & Van Petegem, P. (2010). The influence of competences and support on school performance feedback use. Educational Studies, 33(2), 1–14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Brown
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gerry McNamara
    • 1
  • Joe O’Hara
    • 1
  • Shivaun O’Brien
    • 1
  1. 1.EQI - the Centre for Evaluation, Quality and InspectionDublin City UniversityDublin 9Ireland

Personalised recommendations