Rebranded HMI 'will still say it as we see it'

16th March 2001 at 00:00
The Inspectorate will undergo more than just a change in the relationship with the Government when it becomes an arm's length executive agency from April 2.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools is to be renamed Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education, reflecting its wider remit in further education colleges, teacher education institutions, community education and education authorities.

And in a symbolic signal that HMI is indeed at arm's length from policy decisions, it will be moving from the Scottish Executive's headquarters in Edinburgh's Victoria Quay to the Saughton area of the city, where its eastern division is housed.

Details of the changes were revealed on Tuesday by Douglas Osler, senior chief inspector, who told the spring conference of secondary headteachers in Polmont that he was approaching the shake-up "in an entirely positive spirit".

The changeover was one of Jack McConnell's earliest decisions when he became Education Minister, in response to charges that HMI was both architect and judge of policies. Mr Osler, speaking in public for the first timeabout its new role, said a similar reform had been considered but not pursued at various times since the creation of the Ofsted schools inspectorate in England in 1992.

He made it clear it was Mr McConnell's decision, however, and added pointedly: "I have to say the timing was his as well." The minister made his move last November just before the Parliament's education committee reported on the exams crisis - MSPs regarded the HMI-led Higher Still programme as a significant exacerbation.

Mr Osler pledged: "We will continue to make unambiguous and frank statements about what we find and will continue to make recommendations based on the evidence. We will continue to say it as we see it."

Mr Osler believes the perception which had grown up around the role of HMI in policy-making was always misinformed but had led to "a tiresome and distracting discussion".

Graham Donaldson, depute senior chief, said: "There will always be a tension between what schools wish to pursue and national frameworks and priorities. The Inspectorate has to work within that tension."

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