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Panel says consensus is encouraging

The special panel set up to review the inspection of education authorities noted the "encouraging consensus of view" of councils' experience so far.

The panel, chaired by Mike Ewart, secretary of the Scottish Executive Education Department, suggested there was room for "significant changes", but not until the first round of inspections was completed in 2005.

Meanwhile, it has called for better dialogue between HM Inspectorate before the inspection starts and before the completion of the final report.

The Executive's own research (above) had pointed to excessive demands on council staff and the failure of the final inspection report to incorporate amendments suggested by some authorities where they disagreed with HMI's findings (60 per cent felt there were inconsistencies here).

None the less the panel underlines the fact that, while dialogue with senior council officials could be improved, "the fact that the responsibility for and ownership of the final report is HMIE and Audit Scotland's together should be clarified with authorities".

Peter Peacock, Education Minister, has endorsed the panel's recommendations and urged HMI and the authorities to resolve any ongoing difficulties.

The panel, whose membership includes only one director of education (John Mulgrew of East Ayrshire), also makes suggestions for the second round of inspections. These include a stronger focus on the progress the authorities are making in the five national education priorities.

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