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HMI audit reassures Renfrewshire

The HMI audit roadshow rolled into Renfrewshire this week as part of the inspectorate's drive to press home the messages in its Standards and Quality report on Scottish schools for the 1992-95 period.

By the end of this school term, the audit unit will have held 26 meetings in 16 education authorities attended by a total of 1,200 people. The move reflects a determination by Douglas Osler, who took over in May as senior chief inspector of schools, not to let dust gather on HMI reports.

The inspectorate is particularly anxious to target heads as the key figures in forcing quality issues to the top of the agenda. "A school is only as good as its headteacher," Mr Osler repeatedly declares. The Standards and Quality report noted that a quarter of primaries and a fifth of secondaries had "important weaknesses" in the leadership of headteachers.

Renfrewshire went one better on Monday and drew in heads of pre-five and community centres as part of its own across-the-board consultation on "improving and developing the education service," currently the subject of local consultation.

Archie McGlynn, head of the HMI audit unit, said the inspectorate was intent on a partnership with schools and local authorities.

"The message we must get across from the Standards and Quality report is that teaching is satisfactory and relationships are good in the great majority of Scottish schools, but that we're not complacent in the face of what is good."

Mr McGlynn said he had been "uplifted" by the priority being given by the new authorities to putting quality at the centre of their activities. He confessed to being "irritated" by pronouncements about the inspectorate rushing the initiative. He argued that it has been "an evolutionary process," beginning with the publication of the HMI report Effective Management in 1984.

Compton MacLeod, a leading Educational Institute of Scotland figure in Renfrewshire, observed that "the HMI seem a bit less confrontational than previously".

Mr MacLeod, who is head of Brediland Primary in Paisley, was also reassured that the inspectorate does not expect schools to embrace all of its revised 33 performance indicators at once.

There was some apprehension over the HMI suggestion that schools should publish their own "warts and all" reports on standards and quality.

Mrs Rae said such a step would have to be accompanied by guidance from education authorities on setting the findings in "a positive context". An audit which inevitably focussed attention on areas requiring improvement would be a distortion, she added.

Mr MacLeod welcomed the move away from detailed school development planning accompanied by "reams of documentation." He cautioned against "unrealistic" assumptions about staff participation in such exercises. "Teachers don't want to be heavily involved in management issues. Their view is they are teachers and it is my job as a headteacher to manage," he said.

Mrs Rae warned, however, that staff development had to be improved and linked to school improvement.

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