HMI will be brought to book

28th April 2000 at 01:00
A CROSS-PARTY backlash against what many view as the increasingly politicised and aggressive role of HM Inspectors has forced ministers to concede a new code of practice for school inspections.

The hostile reaction last year of unions, local authorities and opposition parties to the public demolition by HMI of Musselburgh Grammar led on Wednesday to a significant Scottish Executive climbdown during the latest committee stage of the education Bill.

The legislation already recommends a code of practice for inspections of local authorities but ministers were forced to accept a similar arrangement for schools after an all-party ambush, the first major concession in the Bill.

Nicola Sturgeon, SNP shadow education minister, said: "There is consistent concern about the way HMI operate and this will lead to a healing of the relationship between HMI and the teaching profession."

The EducationalInstitute of Scotland last Christmas launched a stinging criticism of the Inspectorate, emphasising a breakdown in trust between inspectors and teachers, a claim subsequently disputed by Douglas Osler, HM senior chief inspector.

Karen Gillon, Labour's vice-convener of the education, culture and sport committee, said ministers had spoken of openness and transparency but "the one group that is not open and transparent is HMI". She insisted: "If there is a code of practice for (inspecting) education authorities, there should be a code of practice for schools."

Brian Monteith, the Conservative spokesman, said: "If HMI is to operate in a way that commands the confidence of the teaching profession and the public, then there is nothing to fear from a code of practice."

Peter Peacock, Deputy Children and Education Minister, said the code should help erase misconceptions about HMI's role.

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