Image: Editors Education Magazine

Measures follow on tough inspection reports Svpo

The Education Inspectorate has identified a series of shortcomings in aspects such as quality assurance, employee participation, accountability and management at the three Schools for Personal Education in Amsterdam, Hoorn and Utrecht, which were declared very weak. All Svpo schools have been placed under stricter financial supervision. The Inspectorate identifies several examples of conflicts of interest.

Schools that received a pass for the quality of education also show shortcomings in quality assurance, quality culture, and accountability and dialogue. This is apparent from a series of inspection reports and a response that outgoing education minister Arie Slob sent to the House of Representatives tonight sent. In it he also announced sanctions for the Utrecht school, where the verdict after a recovery investigation is still 'very weak': 'Funding will be suspended by 15 percent for three months.' If that does not lead to improvement, the school board will be financially affected cut.

According to the Inspectorate, there are several conflicts of interest. In 2019 outlined the Education magazine the Svpo network of publicly funded schools and private foundations, all chaired by founder Misha van Denderen. As chairman of the board, he is the employer of his wife Suzan Polet, who has been appointed as the director of higher education. Their sons also perform paid work. In addition, Van Denderen is 'the supplier' of teaching aids and aids used by the schools. According to the Inspectorate, there are conflicting interests. It is also critical that the Svpo code for good governance leaves room for conflicts of interest, instead of excluding them. Their own supervisors – who are part of the board at Svpo – should also be much more careful.

Suspend

The Svpo leadership, represented by chairman of the board Van Denderen, wanted to keep the reports out of the public eye by going to the court in Amsterdam. According to him, the reports are incomplete and the inspection does not take into account good results. Today particular the judge in his ruling that the importance of such publicity outweighs possible reputational damage or declining student numbers. That same afternoon, the reports adopted last April – sixteen in total – appeared on the Inspectorate's website. Because each school is formally an independent foundation, an educational report as well as a financial-administrative report has been produced for each school.

The Utrecht Svpo school was the first to be called very weak in autumn 2019. Although things such as the school climate, the school guide and the safety monitor have improved since then, important aspects of the Utrecht Svpo school are still lacking. 'According to the Inspectorate, the recovery period was not used to get a better view and grip on the quality of education, to improve it, and to implement the improvements where necessary at other Svpo schools', writes Slob.

Referring to the schools in Amsterdam and Hoorn that now also very weak have stated: 'Instead, several Svpo schools have now been assessed as 'very weak' by the inspectorate. What makes it more difficult to realize improvements in accordance with the repair orders of the inspectorate is that the driver does not seem to agree with the way in which the inspectorate supervises and therefore also does not agree with the inspectorate's judgments. I find that a worrying fact, in view of the findings in the reports', says Slob.

'What makes it more difficult to achieve improvements in accordance with the inspectorate's repair orders is that the driver does not seem to agree with the way in which the inspectorate supervises'

Additionally

The Inspectorate noted shortcomings in the field of annual reporting and financial accounting, opaque cash flows within the network and a lack of insight into financial continuity. Both the financial continuity and the regularity receive an unsatisfactory score, partly because, according to the Inspectorate, the annual accounts of the institutions do not provide a reliable picture of the financial situation. An additional study is being conducted into the real estate, for which Svpo has earmarked large sums in recent years (about 5,6 million in public funding in 2018 and 2019, according to the report). The inspectorate has called in outside help for this.

A recurring picture emerges from educational content reports: the potential benefits of a teaching model with small class sizes and a lot of contact time are offset by a rigid school concept that in practice does not fit well with some of the students, and where teachers are given little space and facilities to train students. size support. Problems are placed with the teacher or the student, while according to the Inspectorate the board should take a much closer look at education.

For example, the inspection report on the Amsterdam Svpo school states: 'Our findings are that one in five pupils at this school experiences shortcomings in the connection (as is apparent from the pupil surveys and interviews we conducted with pupils) and that this is accompanied by insufficient quality of the educational process. The board is not aware of this.'

These are the eight Schools for Personal Education

(Between brackets, the assessment of the quality of education; links lead to inspection reports)

2010 Chapel (Enough)

2013 Hurdegaryp (Enough)

2016 Geldermalsen (Enough)

2017 Utrecht (very weak), Amsterdam (very weak)

2019 Horn (very weak), Deventer (Enough), Hengelo (Enough)

Lecturers have 'insufficient say' over education Svpo-wide, the Inspectorate has concluded. 'We hear from some teachers that they deem it necessary that certain students do different assignments than are in the prescribed computerized teaching method or work in a different way than stated in the teaching method. For example, they want students to make their work on paper or to offer other processing materials, or to organize the program differently. The board allows very limited permission to work in a way other than prescribed. In doing so, the board affects the responsibility of teachers that they have for their students.'

Furthermore, teachers are not properly enabled to attend schools, especially because they then have to arrange for replacements themselves. 'That stands in the way of professionalisation. In practice, we hear from school management and teachers that they hardly participate in professionalization activities.'

Procedure

The Svpo leadership made its views public in mid-May, even before the reports themselves were made public. The board does not agree with the criticism on many points and accuses the Inspectorate of using double standards when assessing quality assurance. Furthermore, the judgment is distorted because learning outcomes are not taken into account and school visits took place in the first months of the school year, according to the response. Van Denderen argued before the court that the financial investigation would not be completed and therefore paints an incomplete and one-sided picture.

In August, the next procedure against the inspectorate will be submitted to the court in The Hague. In this, the SVPO board wants the court to make a substantive judgment about the soundness of the reports.

The Education magazine previously wrote about the foggy money flows within the Svpo network (2019) and described how teachers get stuck on the rigid education model (2020).

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