Support and accountability;Letter

20th March 1998 at 00:00
So the official spokesperson for the education authorities, Elizabeth Maginnis, rejects HMI plans to formally inspect the support structures of local authorities and finds their proposal "deeply patronising" (TESS, February 13). How can education authorities honestly expect to retain the credibility of teachers who are held to detailed public scrutiny if their role is not also accountable?

Local authorities are the missing link in the quality control process. Any teacher who is in touch with colleagues in several local authorities knows that education authorities differ enormously in the range, content, form and quality of the support services they offer to schools. Yet a school is critically dependent on the local authority for the whole range of its needs - from external factors such as curriculum support, resource services, in-service training, to internal factors such as the setting of budget levels for the capitation, equipment, furniture, as well as staffing thresholds and management time allocations.

Through the process of HMI inspections schools are accountable to national initiatives and national standards. Yet Mrs Maginnis seems to be using this very same argument in suggesting that education authorities should not be accountable to these same national initiatives.

I do not know why the education authorities have not been more robust in making public representations in defence of their staff in the face of dire cutbacks. But they have not.

I now feel that there can only be two routes forward for the support frameworks for schools under the new parliament: either a national service where the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department is itself directly accountable for support services and for ensuring that schools are able to adequately resource themselves to currently acceptable standards, or a nationally agreed set of standards applied to an education authority, which while allowing for local distinctiveness subjects them to the same open critical scrutiny as its schools.

The status quo is not an option.

NIALL MACKINNON

Class teacher, St Valery Place, Ullapool, Ross-shire

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