New laws make it harder to keep the customers satisfied

THE latest legislation on race equality, disability rights, human rights and pre-school care, as well as the requirements of the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc 2000 Act, all have implications for HMI.

Many of these measures require schools to give priority to fairness and equality, and HMI has called in consultants to ensure it is itself demonstrating these virtues.

The inspectorate also continues to consult on what customers think of inspections. An independent survey found 76 per cent of those in the school sector - heads, staff and school board chairs - were very satisfied or satisfied.

Plusses ranged from good communication with the school to the assistance given in planning for improvement.

After a previous survey found criticism of the length of notice before an inspection and the amount of paperwork involved, HMI has cut the period of notice from eight weeks to three and provided briefing documents for staff. These steps were supported, respectively, by 67 per cent and 75 per cent of the school sector.

Mr Osler admitted that one issue which continues to cause concern and which the inspectorate is finding it difficult to respond to is the frequent complaint from teachers that they spend considerable time preparing for an inspection yet there is not enough personal feedback.

"They feel there is insufficient dialogue, time to pick someone's brains or exchange information about good practice," he said.

But there are problems in dealing with this complaint, Mr Osler said. Not least is the fact that the inspection is of the corporate life of the school not of individual teachers - and there are also logistical problems of timetabling.

The inspectorate received just 12 complaints in the course of the year, nine of which were resolved at an early stage.

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