Problems with the inspectors

7th September 2012 at 01:00

Your news items "Who guards the guardians?" and "Small primary is `mothballed'" (17 August) referred to the eight HMIE inspections of Torridon Primary 2004-11, and wrongly detailed my association.

In April 2009, headteacher Anne Macrae approached me at a concert. This was the first I knew of her case. I visited subsequently, at a weekend, to give personal support.

Anne felt she was being treated unjustly by HMIE via inspection report statements which negated the school's practice, were not put to her at the time, contradicted national policy on curriculum change, and constituted unevidenced demolition of her professionalism.

The most startling was the 2009 HMIE report statement: "The headteacher's leadership is not sufficiently organised and focused to support further development." Anne informed me that this was not put to her during the inspection.

On visiting, I saw an astonishingly creative, attractive, stimulating learning environment, with demonstrable richness of practice, extensive community involvement, imaginative contexts for learning, involvement of a wide range of external partners near and far, informative, innovative planning and extensive evidence of pupil learning and achievement, in the widest sense. Attainment has been 100 per cent for six years, with considerable "over-attainment".

Anne was last present during the 2009 inspection, for which the Standards and Quality report, and School Improvement Plan were detailed, rich, well- presented documents, outlining in considerable detail the school's commendable achievements and planned developments. Remarkably, many of these are referred to in the 2009 inspection report itself. On this prima facie evidence alone, HMIE's statement above is false. The school complained about this, as did others, including former headteacher John Spalding. HMIE has not responded.

For the 2010 inspection, of a one-teacher school, Anne was not present, being off work ill. That report, of June 2010, presents unsubstantiated personal criticism, which also forms the basis of complaints to HMIE.

HMIE gave lengthy discursive justification, referring only to the 5-14 curriculum, without mentioning Curriculum for Excellence once, in April 2011. The independent adjudicator was not permitted to investigate the substantive points of complaint.

In July 2011 Bill Maxwell, CEO of the new Education Scotland, wrote to Mr Spalding: "I hope you will accept we have done all that we can to deal with your case fairly."

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman refused to investigate, even regarding procedural aspects. Numerous letters of support and enquiry from many involved locally did not receive substantive reply.

Niall MacKinnon, Sirius, Avernish, Ross-shire.

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