Scotland's biggest teaching union has criticised the proposed return of school inspections from January.
School inspections were suspended last year as a result of Covid, to allow schools to focus on education's recovery from the pandemic.
In comments made before a meeting of the national EIS Council this morning, EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “This move shows Education Scotland and the Scottish government to be deeply out of touch with the reality that schools are currently facing amidst record levels of pupil and teacher Covid-related absence and, therefore, significant ongoing disruption.”
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Mr Flanagan added: “Rather than inspecting schools, Education Scotland’s efforts should be channeled firmly in the direction of supporting schools as they continue to respond to the Covid crisis, maintaining education provision for young people in very difficult circumstances.
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“This kind of approach will detract attention from the priority at hand and will contribute little or nothing to what should be the immediate endeavour of the education system – that is, recovery that places the wellbeing of young people and teachers at the heart.”
Mr Flanagan said that “inspections are of limited value in supporting learning and teaching at the best of times” and that “to seek to reintroduce them in the midst of a global pandemic is somewhat nonsensical and is reminiscent of the very ill-judged approach south of the border”.
He added: “We expect better of the Scottish government, especially given the commitment to act on the recommendation of the [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] to remove the inspection function from Education Scotland in the interests of providing better support to schools.
“This is a retrograde step and one which suggests that the Scottish government is not listening to the concerns and needs of the teaching profession as it continues to fight the impact of the pandemic.”
Janie McManus, Education Scotland’s strategic director for scrutiny, said yesterday that some schools had been awaiting the outcome of inspections that were planned pre-pandemic or would have been scheduled over the past 18 months, and the first phase of visits would enable those establishments "to have their improvement work recognised".
She added: “We are committed to ensuring that the work of the inspectorate promotes and celebrates improvement. Our inspectors will take into account the pressures and challenges of the pandemic and the disruption it has caused to the education system.”
Scotland's chief inspector of education, Gayle Gorman, said yesterday: “We have carefully considered our approach to scrutiny activity for this academic year.”
She added: “We want to support the education system to recover from the impact of the pandemic and we would like to thank all local authorities, staff, learners and their families for their continued hard work and resilience through recent difficult times.