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Pollsters to check on authorities

THE Inspectorate has contracted with the System 3 polling organisation to find out what headteachers, school boards and parents' associations think about their education authority, it has been revealed.

Russell Dick, spelt out how, HMI, education authority inspections will work.

The survey will be part of the first phase of inspection, which will take place eight weeks after chief executives have been notified. The inspection team will also interview councillors as well as education officials and senior staff from departments such as finance and social work. They will also meet education spokespersons from opposition parties if asked.

The Inspectorate describes its approach as "getting under the surface" of an authority's performance, which will also include quizzing focus groups of between eight to ten headteachers on how effective the council is in consulting and communicating with them. The team will then visit schools to interview senior management and staff. "Audit trails" will trace the sources of any emrging strengths and weaknesses.

After holding further interviews and reviewing key council documents, the inspectors will provide an oral report to the chief executive and director of education. The final report will be sent to the authority one week before publication after which the council will have to prepare an action plan within eight weeks. There will then be a follow-up inspection normally two years later.

The main phases from arrival of the inspection team to publication of the initial report are planned to take 16 weeks.

The team will normally consist of three HMIs, an official from Audit Scotland and an associate assessor, who will be from either the chief executive's office or the education department of another authority (in Highland's case, it is Kate Reid, head of educational development and quality assurance in West Lothian Council).

Other specialist HMI will be drafted in as necessary; the Highland inspection, for example, will include Duncan MacQuarrie, responsible for Gaelic.

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