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Education Scotland under fire over ‘voluntary’ school inspections

The national education standards body has been accused of a “total dereliction of duty” after asking schools to volunteer for visits by inspectors.

Education Scotland (ES) said it was inviting establishments to “self-select” for participation.

The “recovery visits” will take place during the remainder of the current academic year. ES bosses said the aim would be to learn about what has worked well and the challenges faced due to the Covid pandemic.

Schools and nurseries are not being graded and a “note of visit” designed to support improvement will not be published.

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Oliver Mundell, Shadow Education Secretary for the Scottish Conservatives, has hit out at the announcement.

“This is a total dereliction of duty from Education Scotland, and fails to address the serious issue that there are Scottish schools that haven’t been inspected for over a decade,” he said.

“Parents will be appalled by this decision. These voluntary, informal meetings mean schools will not receive any kind of evaluation and, worse still, it seems that Education Scotland are dodging scrutiny by not publishing any notes from these visits.”

He added: “Education Scotland continue to hide behind the pandemic, backed by SNP ministers who have failed for years to ensure that schools are being inspected.   

“The pandemic has highlighted considerable issues within our schools, and it is crucial that the SNP Government guarantee that proper inspections take place, rather than these staged meetings.”

HeraldScotland: Oliver Mundell, of the Scottish Conservatives, has strongly criticised plans to ask schools to "self-select" for HM Inspector visits.Oliver Mundell, of the Scottish Conservatives, has strongly criticised plans to ask schools to “self-select” for HM Inspector visits.

However, Gayle Gorman, chief inspector of education and ES chief executive, said the plans reflected “the pressures that schools and settings continue to face”.

She added: “That is why we previously announced that we would not resume our routine inspection programme as planned.

“Instead we are asking schools and settings to self-select to participate in a recovery visit. Our aim is for the visits to be a supportive and positive learning experience.

“We want to hear from schools about their own current priorities as they respond to the impact of the current pandemic. We want to learn what is working well, the challenges education practitioners have faced, and also examples of effective practice.”

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The visits will include online and face-to-face activities over two days within a given week. ES will also work with schools and early learning settings to plan the visits.

Janie McManus, ES strategic director for scrutiny, said: “During the visit we would welcome the opportunity to discuss any improvement plans the school or ELC setting may have, and would like to learn more about any plans to address the impact of Covid-19 with a particular focus on continuity of learning and wellbeing of staff and learners.

“The discussions we have during these visits will be really beneficial in helping other education settings learn from the different approaches being taken to support children and young people in their learning at a time when education has been impacted by the pandemic.”

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