Leader of Scottish teaching union calls on end to inspections

Education Scotlands chief executive Bill Maxwell visits Larbert High School, Stenhousemuir. Picture: Michael Gillen
Education Scotlands chief executive Bill Maxwell visits Larbert High School, Stenhousemuir. Picture: Michael Gillen
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The leader of one of Scotland’s leading teaching unions has called on school inspections to be scrapped, calling them a “ridiculous and illogical waste of money.”.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, says while Education Scotland inspectors go into schools there is rarely any detailed feedback to teachers, with visits often years apart.

Yesterday Education Scotland faced further criticism during a debate in the Scottish Parliament which resulted in John Swinney, education minister, saying serious consideration would be given to separating the body’s inspection and policy roles.

Mr Searson is calling on local authorities who already have detailed knowledge of schools in their areas to send in school improvement officers instead who would then have a wide-ranging discussion on findings and what follow-up action was required.

“What teachers need is a clear steer on what might need improved. The inspectors often go in and find fault but seem very reluctant to says exactly what the problem is.

“There needs to be feedback that people can use, facts and figures, not woolly thinking along the lines that they need to “rethink something.”

Mr Searson said that the current regime of inspections put teaching staff under a great deal of stress and pressure with head teachers telling staff “We could be inspected this year. We need to tighten everything up.”

“But this ‘prettying things up’ is like trying to prepare for a show and only gives inspectors of a snapshot on the day rather than letting them see the school as it really is.”

Mr Searson added: “The best solution would be for local authority improvement officers, people who know the schools in their area, to go into schools, and then Education Scotland should go in and inspect the data held by local authorities.”

Tavish Scott MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman, who proposed the debate on Education Scotland, said: “Education policy and school guidance must be separate from inspecting schools. At the moment one body – Education Scotland – do both. This week’s report into school inspection criticises the guidance schools have been getting. That guidance comes from Education Scotland. So this government quango is criticising itself. That is ridiculous. Now is the time for change.”