A new fan of an old battle

14th December 2012 at 00:00

I would like to lend my full support to a position taken by the SSTA as reported in last week's TESS. Admittedly it was in the archive section and was a position they had taken in 1982, but as I was 6 (and three-quarters) at the time I hope you will forgive me for missing the debate the first time round.

The SSTA position was that inspection reports should not be made public, as it would inhibit frank comment by inspectors and result in adverse comments in the media with a school's good points being ignored. I wonder if those who took the decision to make the reports public would reflect that the SSTA made some good points?

While I now hear mainly positive things about the inspection experience - more than 80 per cent of those responding to our post-inspection questionnaire had a positive, affirming experience - it is not perfect. One of the key issues raised is that reading an inspection report often requires a great deal of reading between the lines. School staff find the more detailed RIF much more useful - a report that is not provided directly to parents.

Another issue is that the local media is quick to pick up on identified failings rather than positives, with the result that a negative report can become a destructive force rather than a constructive contribution to school development.

With the recent move away from a generational cycle of inspection and positive changes in inspection methodology making it a "done with" rather than "done to" experience, maybe the time is right to bring the inspection regime into line with current educational practice. If the point of inspection is to "improve Scottish education", then perhaps it would be better to have a formative inspection process rather than a summative one - a process that helps schools on a journey of improvement rather than providing a moment-in-time assessment.

Apologies to SSTA if your position has changed.

Greg Dempster, general secretary, Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland.

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