I would like to comment further on Gordon Cairns's article in your issue last week ("Change of nappy, I mean inspections").
My school was recently inspected by HM Inspectorate of Education and we have been left cold by the experience. After two years of solid work implementing A Curriculum for Excellence, I was told: "Our current policy is to inspect the 5-14 curriculum". So much for sticking to government and council policy and so much for all the consultations with staff, pupils and parents and the many hours of discussion and rationale writing.
The inspection team focused on "the need" for whole-school programmes, approaches and consistency rather than increased teacher autonomy. It was very unhappy with our local authority's performance rather than focusing on the performance of our school. Several references were made to council policies, lack of council action and resources during the inspection.
By the end of the experience, staff had been upset by the style and tone of questioning and observation, and the school was disrupted to feed the inspection team with everything it required. As a result, the external inspection process and the government's curriculum policy were completely discredited. I have to conclude, therefore, that Gordon Cairns's question about what kind of inspection regime we should have in Scotland is very easily answered.
Sustainable and credible improvement comes from professional self-reflection, peer monitoring and local and inter-national research.
Independent inspection cannot be provided by a branch of government that clearly is gunning for certain local authorities and hasn't yet made up its mind which curriculum we are supposed to be using.
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