Minister Bruton Launches Chief Inspector’s Report 2018

21 February, 2018

This February, Minister Bruton launched The Chief Inspector’s Report from the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills. The Report summarises the findings from nearly 5,000 inspections in schools and centres for education during the period January 2013 to June 2016. The Report also summarises findings from inspections of Early Years provision made in 2015 and 2016.

Minister Bruton has set the ambition to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. Major international studies have recently shown the strength of the Irish education system. Ireland’s 15-year-olds are among the best in OECD countries in reading and are above average in mathematics and science.  Our primary school students are the best in Europe for reading and maths. The Inspectorate is key to helping schools deliver the excellent standards we are seeing in our schools.

Some key findings of the Chief Inspector’s Report:

Overall Quality of Teaching

  • Primary: Quality of teaching in primary schools was generally of a high standard. It was judged as good or better in between 88% and 94% of schools inspected via Whole School Evaluation (WSE). This is an improvement on the previous Chief Inspector’s Report 2010-2012 where the quality of teaching was good or better in over 86% of all inspections.
  • Post Primary: The report outlines very positive findings for post-primary schools. The overall quality of teaching in post-primary schools was evaluated as good or better in between 88% and 94% of lessons. The quality of learning was good or better in 85% to 91% of lessons visited, depending on the model of inspection used. This was better than in the 2010-2012 report in which the quality of learning was satisfactory or better in between 82% and 84% of lessons.
  • At both primary and second level, inspectors noted that while overall the overall standards of teaching and learning were good or better, more lessons were “good” rather than “very good”.


Teaching of English

  • Primary: There has been an improvement in the quality of teaching and learning of English in primary schools. The quality of teaching and learning was satisfactory or better in 93% of primary schools where a Whole School Evaluation was carried out compared to 89% of schools in 2010-2012. Inspectors reported that teaching approaches were less than satisfactory in 12% of English lessons examined in unannounced (incidental) inspections.
  • Post Primary: Learning in English was found to be good or very good in 83% of lessons observed in Subject Inspections of English. This is broadly in line with the previous 2010-2012 report, although Inspectors did note the need for better planning of lessons and more variety in content of lessons. Inspectors expressed concerns that the overall quality of learning was less than satisfactory in 17% of English lessons.


Teaching of Mathematics

  • Primary: The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics was found to be satisfactory or better in 96% of schools during WSEs compared to 92% in the 2010-2012 report.
  • Post Primary: Overall findings from Inspections are largely positive. The data from 2013-2016 shows that learning was good or better in 88% of lessons in Mathematics Subject Inspections, which is a significant increase compared to 2010-2012 where the quality of learning was good or better in 74% of lessons. However, teaching approaches were judged to be less than satisfactory in 15% of mathematics lessons inspected in unannounced (incidental) inspections.


Teaching of Irish

  • The report expresses concerns about the teaching of Irish at both levels. Standards in Irish are poorer than those in English and Mathematics.
  • Primary: The quality of teaching of Irish remained broadly the same over the period, as during the 2010-2012 period and Inspectors reported that improvements are required in this area. The quality of learning in Irish was good or better in 74% of lessons in (unannounced) incidental with learning in 26% of Irish lessons deemed unsatisfactory.
  • Post Primary: Challenges persist at post primary level although the quality of students’ learning in Irish in Subject Inspections showed an improvement in students’ learning since the last Chief Inspector’s Report. The quality of students’ learning in Subject Inspections was judged to be satisfactory or better in 68% of lessons in 2010-12, and this had improved to 79% in 2013-16. Inspectors also noted a higher percentage of lessons (up 10%) that were very good and a matching reduction in the percentage of lessons where lessons were considered to be unsatisfactory.
  • The proportion of lessons in Subject Inspections where learning was judged to be very good in Irish was 28% (compared to 34% in English and 41% in Mathematics). In addition, in 21% of lessons observed in Subject Inspections of Irish, learning was less than satisfactory.


Boards of management

  • Primary: The quality of management was good or better in 89%-90% of the schools in which Whole-School Evaluations were conducted. A minority of voluntary Boards of Management find it challenging to manage demanding tasks, including handling parental complaints and providing leadership when standards are not satisfactory in the school. The report noted that better professional support could be provided to (mostly voluntary) Boards of Management of schools in carrying out complex tasks.
  • Post-primary: The quality of management was good orbetter in 91% of the post-primary schools in which whole-school evaluations were undertaken.


School Leadership

  • Primary: The quality of work of school leadership remains of good or very good quality. The percentage of schools where the quality of the work of in-school management was less than satisfactory was between 11% and 15% in this report compared to 18% in the Chief Inspector’s Report of 2010-2012.
  • Post Primary: Inspectors found effective senior management in the majority of schools inspected.



  • Parent questionnaires indicate that in the majority of schools, student behaviour is very good and that there are good student management systems in place.
  • Schools are doing good work to tackle bullying and there is a marked improvement since the last report in the percentage of post-primary parents and students that are confident that schools will deal with bullying promptly and effectively.


Special Education

  • Primary: The overall quality of support for pupils with special education needs (SEN) was good or better in 89% of schools visited. Pupil and parent questionnaires were also very positive in their perceptions of SEN support.
  • Post Primary: In 96% of lessons evaluated in the course of subject inspections focussed on Special Educational Needs provision, the quality of teaching and learning was found to be good or better.


Better Differentiation

  • Inspectors noted generally that there was room to improve the differentiation of lesson content to reflect the needs and abilities of learners in both primary and post primary schools.


School self-evaluation

  • Schools have begun to engage with the school self-evaluation (SSE) process, which empowers the leadership of a school to review the standards and work of the school and identify areas for development. The Inspectorate is committed to supporting school improvement and a range of supports are provided to assist schools in embedding SSE.

Launching the Report, Minister Bruton commented: “There is much that is good in our Early Years, primary and post-primary education provision. The Chief Inspector’s Report acknowledges all the good practice that takes place on a daily basis in our schools and other settings in terms of quality leadership, management, teaching and learning. The findings from this Chief Inspector’s Report together with positive findings for Ireland in international assessments of reading and mathematics, most recently, the PIRLS 2016 report, affirms that the vision outlined in our Action Plan for Education, that the Irish education and training system should become the best in Europe over the next decade, is achievable.’

Publishing the Report, Chief Inspector Dr. Harold Hislop said: “Our inspections show that there are many strengths in the Irish education system at early years, primary and post-primary levels. It is heartening to be able to report positively of effective leadership, good teaching and high quality learning for young people. This provides a solid basis on which to build even better pre-schools and schools for our young people.”

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