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Officials 'aren't up to the job'

There are few outstanding officials in the education directorates, according to the man recently responsible for inspecting them.

In the latest of a series of TES Scotland columns, Douglas Osler, former senior chief inspector of education, argues that the problem with local management of education is not the structure of authorities but "the quality of political and personal leadership".

While a number of authorities have received glowing HMI reports for quality of leadership, Mr Osler suggests that the policy during local government reorganisation of restricting applications to existing members of the directorate "circulated mediocrity".

He acknowledges that constant internal reorganisations did not help but neither does the "particular eccentricity" in Scotland of career tramlines in which there is little cross-over between headteachers, inspectors and the directorate. "That inhibits selection and limits experience," he says.

Mr Osler goes on to consider alternatives but concludes: "Changing structures usually just delays facing the real issue which is the quality of local leadership in education. Structural change provides an excuse for inaction while the new order settles down and will not guarantee improvement."

Mr Osler says devolving more power to heads and school boards might be worth considering, if accountability could be assured. But a fifth of primary and secondary heads are graded as unsatisfactory in HMI's reports.

"What happens to the thousands of children in these schools?" he asks.

Platform 21

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