HMIE visit was the final straw

22nd January 2010 at 00:00
Family of Irene Hogg calls for the abolition of HMIE and better support from councils when schools undergo scrutiny

Download the full report in PDF format on the righthand side

In a bitter response to the findings of the fatal accident inquiry into the death of Borders primary head Irene Hogg, her brother Roger said he was "extremely disappointed". He called for the abolition of HMIE.

Miss Hogg's body was found at Tow Ford, near the edge of the Cheviot Hills, in March 2008, days after her Galashiels school, Glendinning Terrace Primary, had been inspected. The spot is just a 20-minute drive from the headquarters of Scottish Borders Council.

The findings of the FAI by Sheriff James Farrell, called for by her family, were published earlier this week. They concluded that the cause of her death was "immersion in water and paracetamol toxicity".

In his evidence to the inquiry, Mr Hogg said he blamed the inspection for his sister's death, saying if it had not taken place she would still have been alive today. It was "the straw that broke the camel's back", he said.

The family had called for:

  • counselling to be put in place with "minimum delay" when it was suggested as a course of action by the council;
  • a risk assessment to be carried out by the council when notice of inspection was received, to see if there are circumstances justifying postponement or additional support;
  • additional support to be put in place as soon as possible if a headteacher was "visibly distressed" during or following feedback from HMIE;
  • HMIE guidelines setting out the circumstances under which a postponement of an inspection can take place.
    • However, the procedures and practices already in place were appropriate, Sheriff Farrell decided. On inspection, he noted: "The procedure has been slimmed down in several respects and a shift of emphasis from inspection of the school to inspection with the school has been attempted."

      But Mr Hogg reacted angrily: "In my view, the sheriff's findings lay all the onus on Irene's shoulders, suggesting that the policies `in place' were sufficient, regardless of the quality of their implementation or effects."

      He said the most important thing to have come out of the inquiry was for "staff and headteachers to realise that they have to be aware of their own stress levels and be prepared to take significant action if required. They cannot depend on the local authority to do it".

      Mr Hogg also described school inspections as "divisive, extraordinarily stressful and largely pointless". He added: "If authorities have the obligation, under statute, to provide education, why do we need a watchdog to look over their shoulders?"

      The HMIE report on Glen-dinning Terrace Primary found most of its work was no more than "adequate".

      Tributes

      "Glendinning was a school with a happy, family atmosphere. The headteacher, Irene Hogg, was respected and held in high esteem by her staff and by parents and by the many children who, over the years, were fortunate to have been in her care. By virtue of these achievements, Irene Hogg proved herself to be an outstanding headteacher."

      • Sheriff James Farrell
        • "My own personal sympathies and those of the Scottish Government go to Miss Hogg's family and friends and to the whole community whom she served so well. The FAI concludes that no single circumstance could be blamed for what took place, nor any actions by the inspectorate or the council. Nonetheless, I am sure that everyone involved in this case will - and should - learn lessons from it."

          • Michael Russell, Education Secretary
            • "I would like to echo Sheriff Farrell's comments about Irene Hogg, a dedicated and highly-valued headteacher who is still very much missed in our community. I am pleased that Sheriff Farrell has issued his findings so quickly, as this has been an extremely difficult time for everyone involved."

              • Glenn Rodger, Scottish Borders Council's director of education and lifelong learning.
                • "At the time of the incident, we offered sincere condolences to the family and friends of Irene Hogg, as well as to the pupils, parents and staff at Glendinning Terrace Primary, and we do so again now."

                  • HMIE.
                    • Download the full report in PDF format on the righthand side

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