So just how deep was the 'deep audit'?

29th June 2012 at 01:00
Education committee probes readiness for curriculum before summer recess

Exactly how deep was the "deep audit" of secondary schools' readiness for the senior phase of Curriculum for Excellence?

That question dominated the education committee's final probe into the new curriculum before the summer recess.

According to Kenneth Muir, chief inspector of education at Education Scotland, the audit was more of a "stocktake" being carried out against a background of 900-or-so inspection visits and an accumulation of evidence over the past few years.

Its aim, he told the committee, was to allow Education Scotland to "get a handle" on the set of support needs required, given that the organisation already knew there was a variation in readiness within and between schools.

He acknowledged that teacher unions might have had a different set of expectations which were, in his view, "unrealistic". Given Education Scotland's resources, it could not speak to "every single practitioner in every establishment over a period of two to three weeks", he said.

Was "deep audit" the wrong term? asked Liam McArthur, LibDem MSP for Orkney Islands.

"Because a deep audit would suggest reaching into schools to department heads and practitioners at the chalkface and that clearly was never the intention. Do you accept there was a presentational error there?" he continued.

"I would accept that," said Mr Muir. "I think there probably has been a difference in interpretation in what that audit was designed to do."

Alan Taylor, spokesman on CfE for the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said the audit had "asked the wrong people for information" - not practising teachers. Only five authorities were thorough, in his opinion.

The agreement between the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Scottish government was supposed to ensure that the "teachers' voice" was heard, said the union's general secretary Larry Flanagan.

"But it didn't materialise - it remained the way it was previous to the agreement, largely a survey of readiness through directors of education and headteachers," said Mr Flanagan.

Neil Findlay, Labour MSP for Lothian, said that Labour had carried out its own survey of councils. In one rural authority, only the director of education - no teachers and no subject specialists - had been questioned; in a city-based council, only a senior education manager, a headteacher and four members of staff (roles not specified) were involved.

Education secretary Michael Russell said the audit told him that "Scotland is prepared for Curriculum for Excellence and we have not missed a deadline set by the management board".

He added: "I don't think that the issue of a two-and-a-half page report to the management board is in any way a flimsy report."

elizabeth.buie@tess.co.uk.

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