Hit squads 'are not a solution'

22nd August 2003 at 01:00
The former head of the inspectorate has issued a hard-hitting warning over Scottish Executive plans to rescue struggling schools.

Writing in the first of a series of articles for The TES Scotland, Douglas Osler describes talk of hit squads as "a gesture not a solution".

The partnership agreement between Labour and the Liberal Democrats pledges the Executive to extend ministerial powers to tackle underachieving schools and authorities by intervening "as a last resort and on the recommendations of the inspectorate".

In his first interview with The TES Scotland as Education Minister (June 13), Peter Peacock said he would take action only "in extremis". He hoped the mere existence of the powers would be sufficient and that he would not have to use them.

Mr Osler comments: "We already have adequate safeguards in place. We just need to use them. The local authority should always retain responsibility for the quality of the local education service."

Referring to suggestions that a successful authority could send in officials to turn round a weaker one, Mr Osler says that in a country the size of Scotland "that is invidious and professionally humiliating".

He writes: "The most effective way to improve the system is through the system. It works well in most parts of Scotland."

But Mr Osler insists: "Unsatisfactory performance requires emergency action and quick resolution." He writes that it always surprised him how quickly an unsatisfactory school could be turned round, usually after the headteacher was replaced.

Meanwhile the new education spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has given notice that he will be challenging the Executive over its plans for "failing schools".

"The very language they are using undermines what we are trying to do locally," the Rev Ewan Aitken told The TES Scotland.

What if a school fails?

Platform, page 11

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