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An inspector didn't call

Scottish schools should be inspected within a seven-year cycle, following a 2002 ruling. But dozens have remained uninspected since the 1980s. Henry Hepburn reports

TES SCOTLAND can reveal that more than 300 Scottish schools have not been inspected in the past decade, and some have not seen an inspector for nearly a quarter of a century.

Using records from the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, HM Inspectorate of Education and local authorities, TESS compiled a master list showing schools whose last full inspection report was published in December 1995, or earlier - a total that came to almost 300, including 32 whose last inspection report was in the 1980s. For three schools - in East Dunbartonshire, Highland and West Lothian - the last recorded full report dates back to January 1983.

The news has been described as "appalling" by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, but HMIE insists that plans for fresh inspections of every school in Scotland are on schedule.

Judith Gillespie, SPTC development manager, said: "I know that in that time certain schools have been inspected more than once - and not even problem schools. This is not acceptable. No school should be left as long as some have been - it's appalling."

She said that HMIE inspections were important in detecting problems at an early stage. "Some schools can actually slide without anyone picking it up - HMIE does play a very important role.

"HMIE's own target is that schools will be inspected in the lifetime of each pupil. Schools have to ensure that they are keeping up to benchmarks, but who is keeping an eye on HMIE?"

Caroline Vass, president of the Scottish School Board Association, praised HMIE for stepping up its rate of inspections in recent years, but added:

"As a parent, I would be a bit concerned if a school had not been inspected in more than 20 years. The school may be self-evaluating and the local authority will also have done things, but it's HMIE that has a national perspective."

HM Inspectorate of Education started its Generational Cycle programme in 2002, where it told parents to expect reports within seven-year cycles for primary schools and six for secondary schools, meaning every school should have been inspected by 2009.

A spokesman said: "HMIE does not consider itself as having a backlog. The timetable of inspections is going on as planned and HMIE is confident that it will complete the cycle by the stated dates."

He explained that before 2002, rather than a commitment to regular visits, samples of certain types of schools were selected for inspection: "Where some schools appear not to have been inspected for a number of years HMIE would not necessarily be concerned, because of this juxtaposition of two systems before and after 2002."

He said that HMIE had carried out 304 inspections of primary and secondary schools in 2004-05, 319 in 2005-06, and that 280 had been planned for 2006-07.

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