Still awaiting independent inspection

11th April 2003 at 01:00
Your article last week alleging that I had "scored an own goal" with regard to my comments on the astonishingly patchy geo-graphical spread of inspections over the past two decades was, in itself, an own goal, at least for Michael O'Neill of North Lanarkshire Council.

No matter how well "proportionate" inspection develops, there will still remain a national framework of independent - and the word is vital - inspection. Even the much vaunted "self-inspection" of schools will not eliminate that statutory requirement.

Self-assessment by definition is not independent nor can it have full regard to national standards and requirements.

In addition, many teachers find the present bureaucratic burden of constant target-setting, form-filling and reporting back to council headquarters almost unsupportable and many parents would question whether such actions should take the place of truly independent inspections within a seven-year cycle.

A combination of light self-assessment and modern, proportionate, supportive inspection is the right solution, not one or the other.

Certainly Mr O'Neill's assertion that "inspections do not tell us anything we do not know" is not the democratic or responsible way forward.

It is therefore entirely legitimate to ask (as I did) why North Lanarkshire has one of the highest proportions of schools un-inspected for the last decade, and why the Scottish Executive has allowed that situation to continue, in dereliction of its statutory duty.

It is also entirely legitimate to argue that, without a truly national spread of inspections, national policy-making will be based on an incomplete picture.

Michael Russell

SNP spokesperson for children and education

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