Members of teaching unions in Northern Ireland are refusing co-operation with school inspectors in the latest round of their dispute with the government.
Teachers in the countries of the UK undergo a form of inspection which, as far as we are aware, is not replicated anywhere else in the world. It involves intense preparation, classroom observation and reports which are public and are used to 'name and shame' schools. Headteachers commonly lose their jobs if inspection results are not good, and a bad outcome can even result in the closure of schools. As a result teachers are under intense pressure to shine in front of inspectors, to strive for a so-called 'outstanding' grade and to keep mounds of paperwork up to date. Test results are also minutely scrutinised.
Now members of several unions in Northern Ireland are refusing co-operation. As a spokesperson for INTO, one of the unions involved put it:
"We've sent a letter to all our members to hand to inspectors in the classroom. It says teachers won't be doing any teaching while they are there. Pupils will work independently on something provided by the teacher, and we would hope that the inspector would be sympathetic and leave the classroom at that point so that teachers can get back to work.
"All teachers appreciate that some form of check has to be kept on the system but we also believe that there is far too much bureaucracy."
Another union NASUWT is staging a series of one day strikes as part of the dispute and is also considering boycotting inspections.