Leader comment: School inspections just don't work

Ask any education professional with experience of a school inspection and the chances are they will recall a scenario not dissimilar to a royal visit. There is a period of intense pressure during which classrooms are spruced up and lesson plans finely honed, all for the sake of one day. Inspectors, like the monarch, would be forgiven for thinking the world smells of fresh paint.

School inspections are "a waste of money" and are an anachronism that belongs to another century - like the schools portrayed in St Trinan films.

That, at least, is the theory. In practice, the school inspections regime is far from rigorous. A recent Freedom of Information request found that although Education Scotland has 2,627 schools within its remit, spot checks were carried out on just 22 secondary schools last year.

If the purpose of the inspections system is to ensure every school is meeting standards, its scope is short-sighted to the point of being redundant. There are only 44 full-time inspectors, each responsible for covering 59 schools. At a time of significant budgetary pressures, increasing the complement of inspectors seems like wishful thinking.

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Now, Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, has voiced what many educationalists have long believed – the inspections, he said, are a “ridiculous and illogical waste of money”.

Instead, Mr Searson proposes using local authority improvement officers to hold regular discussions with local schools and determine what steps are required.

It is hard to find fault with Mr Searson’s suggestion. Everyone, not least the Scottish Government, should want to see schools raise their game, but the current model is an anachronism which is not fit for purpose. There is surely a better way forward.