The determination by Sheriff James Farrell on the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Borders headteacher Irene Hogg was the only sensible outcome. Whatever views people may have on inspection, those who provide external scrutiny cannot possibly anticipate that their judgments will lead any head to take such a fateful step. Although the sheriff noted that Miss Hogg's suicide was "inextricably linked" to the inspection of her school, his report is largely silent on more personal factors which may have weighed equally on her mind. Nobody likes to see their work dismissed as "weak" or "adequate"; the effect this would have had on someone as conscientious and self-critical as Miss Hogg appears to have been can only be imagined.
HMIE will no doubt be gratified to read today (p1) that its cuddlier persona may be paying off as nearly 80 per cent of primary heads now look more positively on inspection - but it must also be aware that others do not, and too many heads privately report an adverse experience for it to be dismissed as merely an urban myth. Of course, it is a truism that inspection is never going to be stress-free, but the process can be made immeasurably easier if it is seen to be fair and takes due account of the circumstances in which a school finds itself.
Let us hope that inspectors on the ground have moved on from nit-picking and fault-finding - or at least from encouraging that perception. For some schools, however, an adverse HMIE report feels like a very public trial in which they have no right of appeal.
Dare we suggest that we should look for guidance to England where an independent Ofsted Complaints Adjudication Service can investigate "any alleged failure by Ofsted to follow proper procedures, discourtesy, discrimination or injustice, delay and the failure to accept and apologise for mistakes made." Now there's cuddly.
Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine).