Secondary heads' chief lambasts inspectorate

19th November 2010 at 00:00

The new secondary headteachers' president will mount an attack on the schools inspectorate today, saying it refuses to look beyond poor exam results in schools serving deprived areas and give them credit for the good work they are doing.

Jim Thewliss, head of Harris Academy in Dundee, marks the start of his presidency of School Leaders Scotland with a plea to HMIE: "Judge us not on the cards which we have been dealt, but by the way in which we play our hand."

Paraphrasing the former US president Bill Clinton's campaign cry, Mr Thewliss will tell the annual SLS conference: "It's the catchment area, stupid!"

His association has "clear evidence" suggesting that the inspection regime remains an "output-driven process" which disregards both the "quality and quantity of input" by the school community, he claims.

"It is true that if attainment, as measured by examination results, places a school in the bottom two national comparison deciles, then the school is unlikely to score 5 or 6 in any of the other quality indicators," Mr Thewliss adds.

Schools rarely feature in the bottom rungs for attainment because of a failure by the school or its teachers, he argues.

"Some of the most highly effective strategies for meeting learners' needs, the most imaginatively-structured learning experiences, the most creative curricular structure and the most inspired leadership can be found in schools which have been condemned in inspection reports, tainted by a failure to see beyond QI 1.1 (the HMIE quality indicator referring to exam attainment)," he says.

With HMIE poised to merge with Learning and Teaching Scotland next year, and senior chief inspector Bill Maxwell promising a new direction and approach, Mr Thewliss calls for the abolition of the "cottage industry" of time-consuming, quasi-inspection activities, which give justification to the existence of "herds of QIOs, EOs and QEMs (quality information officers, education officers and quality education managers)" at local authority level, which eat into an ever-decreasing amount of school leadership time to "little positive impact on school effectiveness in improving learning".

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