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Call for change as almost 200 north schools go decade without formal inspection

Aberdeenshire East candidate Stewart Whyte has called for the restructuring of Education Scotland.
Aberdeenshire East candidate Stewart Whyte has called for the restructuring of Education Scotland.

The Scottish Conservatives have called for a new school inspections body, with figures revealing almost 200 in the north have not been formally checked for a decade.

Statistics obtained via Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation show 196 across the seven northern council areas have not been visited by Education Scotland inspectors in the last 10 years.

Across the whole country, this number rises to more than 700 and includes 75 in the Highlands and 62 in Aberdeenshire.

There are 18 each in Aberdeen and Moray.

Current system branded ‘alarming’

In February, opposition MSPs said Education Scotland and the SQA were “not fit for purpose” after voting through a Holyrood motion.

The Liberal Democrats said the organisations had “let down” parents, teachers and pupils during the pandemic.

They called for Education Scotland to be split in two, separating its duties of independently inspecting schools and developing the curriculum.

And last night the Scottish Conservatives said the current system was leaving children “abandoned”.

Their Aberdeenshire East candidate Stewart Whyte, who is also a history teacher, said: “These revelations show there will be thousands of pupils who have gone through their entire primary or secondary school journey without a single inspection taking place.

“Teachers in Aberdeenshire are dedicated and committed professionals but they are missing out on modern inspections which are there to provide support to ensure pupils are getting the best education

“Under the Scottish Conservatives, no pupil will go to a school that is in a poor or bad condition by the end of the next Parliament.

“We would also establish a new independent body for inspecting our schools which would restore confidence in the system.”

But the SNP’s candidate in the constituency, Gillian Martin, said: “I’ve sat and watched the Tories obsess over school inspections for the past five years.

“Closing the attainment gap is not going to happen because of inspectorate visits, it’s going to happen with teacher recruitment, pupil equity funding and addressing child poverty.

“The SNP is rightly focussing on these areas.

“Of course, the Tories don’t want to talk about poverty as their austerity measures and benefits capping have caused most of that.

“This latest rant is a classic deflection from the real issues, none of which the Tories have any constructive ideas on.”

Call based on ‘misunderstanding’

During the parliamentary debate in February, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our partners in education have continued to contribute to important work on the future of Scottish education, such as the independent review of Curriculum for Excellence led by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and in preparing for alternative approaches to certification.

“The suggestion that Education Scotland should be separated into independent inspection and policy functions shows a misunderstanding of their role.

“The Scottish Government, not Education Scotland, is responsible for policy on education.”

The government’s FOI response said Education Scotland had committed to carrying out at least 250 school inspections during the 2019-20 academic year, which these figures relate to.

It added: “This was on track to be achieved, however inspections were paused on March 16 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic which meant that the programme for this academic year could not be completed.”

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