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'No apology' for downgrading HMI report

OFFICIALS in Falkirk have hotly dismissed accusations from the Roman Catholic Church and the school board of St Andrew's primary that they acted highly irregularly in helping to downgrade an HMI report.

The denominational primary received what is widely regarded as an excellent report but parents and the Church complained it would have been even better had senior education officials not intervened at the draft stage.

They claim they have never come across a local authority that refused to accept the positive findings. It "beggars belief", said George Valentine, church representative on Falkirk's education committee. The action of education officers had been "highly questionable".

Mr Valentine said: "In plain language, they clearly did not like, or did not agree with, some of the praise the school had elicited from the inspectors and were able to persuade someone within the inspectorate that it should be withdrawn."

The "very good" leadership of John Evitt, the headteacher, was reduced to mere mention of leadership, a fact that had "destroyed morale" in the school.

But Graeme Young, director of education, replied that authorities were under a statutory duty to monitor quality in their schools and provide an accurate picture. Inspectors visited once every seven years but the council had to carry out more regular checks.

"I make no apology for what has been done. It's part and parcel of the Standards in Scotlands Schools Act," Dr Young said.

In one or two areas the inspectors' praise was "overfulsome" and the authority had to correct them, given its broader knowledge of the school. Not to make comments would have breached the terms of the Act. Officials had views about the strengths and weaknesses of every school as part of their jobs.

Mr Valentine retorted: "There has been an attempt to portray what happened as routine and not unusual. I contend that not only was this action unusual it was virtually unique."

Tom Coleman, the council's SNP education convener, failed to back his director. "The fact that this is done at arm's length should ensure some measure of objectivity but there's an element of subjectivity creeping in."

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