Top Edinburgh schools go 10 years without inspections

Royal High School has not been visited by inspectors since 2007
Royal High School has not been visited by inspectors since 2007
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Some of Edinburgh’s leading state schools, including Boroughmuir and Royal High, have not had a formal inspection in over a decade, it has emerged.

The situation has been branded “completely unsatisfactory” by opposition parties.

It comes after recent analysis indicated that Edinburgh’s schools are falling behind other areas of Scotland – with just Boroughmuir making the top ten in the 2019 Scottish school league tables.

It means many youngsters in the capital will spend their entire six years at a secondary school without it being inspected.

Education bosses insist they don’t use a “cyclical” approach to inspecting schools, but instead adopt a sampling model. Teaching representatives also insist many high-performing countries have no inspection system and Scotland could “learn from this approach” which places trust in teachers.

But the revelations have prompted fresh concerns after Education Secretary John Swinney ditched high-profile reforms of the education system recently because of what he said was the strength of the current inspection regime.

The Royal High School in the capital’s Barnton district has not been visited by inspectors since 2007, according to figures published through Freedom on Information by the Scottish Government.

Boroughmuir High School in Fountainbridge has not had a formal inspection since 2008 – long before it moved into its new building last year. However, the school was ranked Scotland’s top state school last year in the Parent Power guide in the Sunday Times, based on Higher results.

James Gillespie’s High School in the city centre 
was last inspected in 2010, while Gracemount High School in the south of the city was last inspected six years ago.

Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “This is a completely unsatisfactory situation about which parents have every right to be angry.

“One of the reasons used by John Swinney when he ditched his much heralded education reforms was his belief that the inspection programme was already providing more rigorous assessment of schools.

“These statistics make plain, however, that many schools are not being regularly inspected so l don’t understand how he can possibly make that claim.

“In some cases, pupils will go through a whole seven years of primary school or six years of secondary school, and yet their school will not be inspected.”

Just 33 per cent of pupils in the capital attained five or more awards at SCQF level six, equivalent to Highers in the previous curriculum, recent analysis by the Herald newspaper found.

But a spokeswoman for the EIS teaching union said: “Schools operate under the auspices of local authorities, all of which have quality assurance schemes in place. If there was a concern then HMIE could be contacted. It is worth noting, however, that in some high-performing systems, such as Finland, there is no national inspectorate. Scotland could learn from such systems where the key approach is one of trust in teachers.”