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Union opposes plan to bring back school inspections during ‘fragile period’

Education Scotland is to bring back school inspections.
Education Scotland is to bring back school inspections.

Teaching union officials are calling for the Scottish Government to intervene after it was announced school inspections are to be phased back in.

Education Scotland stopped school visits in March last year as a result of the pandemic.

The move was also designed to allow schools and education establishments to focus on providing support to teachers and pupils.

Now, though, bosses at the government body have revealed the inspectors will be back soon.

First to face scrutiny will be schools which had been due to have an inspection at the point of lockdown. These will be carried out before the end of the year.

And then, from January 2022, inspectors will undertake a programme of individual early learning and childcare (ELC) settings and school visits.

The government’s chief inspector of education said she wants to “support the education system to recover from the impact of the pandemic” and promised Education Scotland would be “adaptive”.

But the news was met with criticism from the country’s biggest teaching union.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said Education Scotland and the Scottish Government were “deeply out of touch” with the issues facing teachers and schools.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan is not happy with the idea of inspections resuming in schools.

Government needs to ‘put a stop’ to resumption of inspections

That has been echoed by Alistair Bell, EIS Highland secretary, who believes ministers need to “put a stop” to the plan.

He believes it would be a “further disruption” in schools as they try to recover from the coronavirus crisis in what he has described as a “fragile period.”

Mr Bell said: “It is clear that education recovery is ongoing, and in some respects the current situation is more disruptive to teaching and learning than a full lockdown.

Neither staff nor pupils need further distraction in this fragile period.”

Alistair Bell, secretary EIS Highland

“Partial classes with different pupils in each day or week and staff off for a couple of days awaiting a test result.

“Thus maintaining a position of no formal inspections would surely allow schools valuable time to re-establish a constant routine with continuity of provision as until this is the case, full recovery cannot be considered.

“Neither staff nor pupils need further distraction in this fragile period.

“To demonstrate that the Scottish Government really have education and closing the attainment gap to the fore, they should put a stop to this plan.”

Fears of increasing anxiety and workload for teachers

Cults Academy, Cults, Aberdeen.
Cults Academy, Cults, Aberdeen.

Ron Constable, secretary of the EIS in Aberdeen, believes having inspectors in schools will only lead to “more anxiety and more workload” among teachers.

He said: “This is an extra veil of scrutiny to be imposed upon them and they are much better off supporting people.

“I don’t actually know what they are going to see because we’ve had six months of lockdown.

“The exams have been shelved and they are coming into schools, which will create more anxiety and more workload.

“It seems they are out of touch with what is going on in schools just now.

“If you going to get inspected you find out a week before and it does cause anxiety because you know you will have inspectors in your class.

“I’ve been in a number of inspections and they are camped in your class. I hope there is a common-sense approach and there will be a very, very light touch.”

‘We want to support the education system’

HM Chief Inspector Gayle Gorman wants to help the education system recover.

Gayle Gorman, HM Chief Inspector of Education, said: “We have carefully considered our approach to scrutiny activity for this academic year.

“We recognise how challenging the Covid-19 pandemic has been for everyone alongside the ongoing pressures on staff and learners of returning to establishments after the summer break and given the current health challenges.

“We want to support the education system to recover from the impact of the pandemic and we would like to thank all local authorities, staff, learners and their families for their continued hard work and resilience through recent difficult times.

“We are aware of the ongoing, changing situation with Covid-19. We will continue to be adaptive and responsive to changing circumstances linked to the pandemic that staff and learners may face.”

Janie McManus, Strategic director, scrutiny, added:  “Some establishments are awaiting the outcome of inspections which were planned pre-pandemic or would have been scheduled over the last 18 months.

“The forthcoming visits will enable those to establishments visited to have their improvement work recognised.

“The visits along with the national thematic inspections will enable HMIE to provide valuable evidence to support education recovery.”

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