Postcode performance

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
The trauma of a school inspection can only be equalled by the publication of a scathing and unfair report some months later. This seems to have been the sad lot of Braeview Academy in Dundee (TESS, last week).

It is amazing that the HMIs alone uncover a state of decay and despair that had gone unnoticed by the headteacher, the education authority, parents and the local community. In the two years since the school was "signed off", an unparalleled decline appears to have taken place which only the enlightened ones with imperial crowns on their briefcases had the vision and wisdom to uncover.

Even the new acting headteacher helicoptered in by Dundee City Council cannot recognise the school from the HMI report and what he has seen on the ground.

Is there not the merest hint that part of what we are getting is postcode performance? Is it possible for an inner city primary or urban secondary to achieve the high accolades of the more rural and affluent primaries?

The staff at Braeview have worked themselves to a standstill since the uniting of the two housing scheme secondary schools. An imaginative and creative headteacher who had 30 years of experience in a variety of senior management posts led them.

They have looked longingly across the city to schools like Grove and Harris academies where the uniform is pretty and the catchment areas are affluent and predominantly owner-occupied.

How is it possible for HMIs to ignore the social problems of an area and the chronic staffing shortages and unacceptable numbers of supply teachers in inner city or urban schools like Braeview? Quite simply, because they have a narrow view of educational attainment.

Teacher input and management style, with possibly a liberal helping of critical skills programme training, equals pupil performance. Nothing else seems to be considered.

Dundee City Council deserves praise for its rapid response to the damning but unfair report of Braeview. The school and local community took the criticism on the chin. That would not surprise anyone who knows the people of the area.

So are school inspections fair? Why does the "hit squad" move out and leave the school it has criticised so heavily and the education authority that has been oblivious to poor performance to sow the seeds of their own improvement?

Would it not be better for HMI to leave one of its own behind before returning to the sanctuary of the mother ship? I am sure that staffrooms all over Scotland would welcome an inspector pulling oars in the galley alongside them for 40 weeks, showing them how it is done.

Councillor Ron Scrimgeour. Angus Council. (former assistant rector, Carnoustie High)

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