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Policies: food for thought

Sampling food will be one of the inspectorate's chores for the coming year.

As part of its remit to check progress on implementing the Scottish Executive's policies, it will deliver its verdict on the 'Hungry for Success' action plan on school meals.

In a similar vein, it will also issue an interim progress report on the implementation of the teachers' agreement, dwelling particularly on whether it has had any impact on the quality of education.

Fresh pronouncements are expected next year on P7-S2, science education, discipline, integrated community schools and initial teacher education.

The inspectorate has already finalised its findings on two other key initiatives, the McCabe report on sex education and the development of modern languages, and these will be published soon.

In terms of its core business in 2003-04, HMI exceeded its targets and visited 221 primaries (target 220), 44 secondaries (43), 34 special schools (24), and 596 early education centres (400). It also inspected seven education authorities (seven planned) and 12 further education colleges.

In the coming year, HMI aims to step up or equal that work rate, but will be able to scale down inspections of FE colleges and special schools.

HMI says it is on course to complete its "generational cycle" of inspecting every secondary school by 2008 and every primary by 2009.

Gender blender The inspectorate has one of the best gender balances in education. Figures show that 84 of its total staff are male and 93 female - compared with only 65 female and 101 male a decade ago.

But the majority of women in HMI are in administrative posts: inspectors account for around 30 of the female total, half the number of male members of the inspectorate.

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