Damaging criticism

9th September 2005 at 01:00
Your article of August 26 highlights the criticisms made by HMIE in its follow-up report on Perth and Kinross Council's education and children's services department.

The conclusions reached by inspectors merit both respect and attention.

Perth and Kinross Council and the department itself have moved quickly to address the criticisms made in the report and to engage centrally deployed staff in a wide-ranging review of strategic decision-making and operational practice.

There is considerable confidence that such a review, headed by the highly respected interim director, Len McConnell, will result in the improvements required.

It is unfortunate that, as happens too often in press coverage of HMIE reports, the very good work being done throughout the authority and its schools is not acknowledged. Inspectors noted this in their original report in May 2003 and continue to do so in the follow-up.

In their conclusion to the follow-up report they say "good and effective work had been carried out by a range of committed and hard-working staff working in front-line services in establishments and at the centre". This acknowledgement is fully justified through a succession of extremely favourable reports on individual schools across the authority over recent years.

I sit as an elected teacher representative on the lifelong learning committee in Perth and Kinross and on its standards and scrutiny committee, which examines in detail all HMIE reports on schools within the authority.

The excellent quality of educational provision in the schools inspected is a matter of public record. Equally, it is a matter of record that "on many aspects of attainment (the authority's performance) remained above the average for comparator authorities" and, in many cases, above or in line with national averages.

The HMIE report in 2003 made very favourable references to the excellent work done within Perth and Kinross in relation to establishing a healthy and successful model of consultation and participation in decision-making.

As leader of the teachers' side of the joint negotiating committee, I can confirm the success of that model and acknowledge the contribution of successive directors of education to encouraging and fostering a sound working relationship with teachers' professional associations.

Selective quotation from HMIE reports is always to be discouraged, and I do not dissent from the broad thrust of HMIE's criticisms. I would, however, wish to re-emphasise the need to reassure parents, pupils and the broader community that educational provision in Perth and Kinross is not in crisis: it continues to provide a high quality of learning experience delivered by dedicated professionals at all levels.

Colin Mackie Secretary Perth and Kinross EIS local association

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