Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘dereliction of duty’ exposed – damning figures lay bare decade of decay

Oliver Mundell slams the Scottish 'exam chaos'

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Data released under FOI laws reveal 984 schools have not been inspected since 2011 during the first SNP administration under Alex Salmond. A further 71 are still due an inspection after almost 15 years with two schools not being inspected since 2004 when Jack McConnell was Scottish First Minister.

Five schools were last inspected in 2005 alongside 20 more in 2006 prompting calls for swift reform of the inspection system north of the border.

There are 2,449 state or grant-aided schools in Scotland with 1,685 not being inspected since 2016, five years ago.

On Tuesday night, opposition MSPs in Holyrood called for an independent schools inspectorate, similar to Ofsted in England, to be re-established as quickly as possible.

The Scottish inspectorate, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education, was merged in 2011 into Education Scotland, which is responsible for the running of Scotland’s education system.

The Education standards body recently stopped inspecting schools on a cyclical basis at least once every six years and changed to a sampling model where 250 inspections take place each year across the school sectors.

Education Secretary Shirley Anne-Somerville then said Education Scotland would lose its inspection role as part of a string of reforms after complaints from teachers that inspectors were too close to the SNP led Scottish Government.

Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Michael Marra said: “This woeful performance shows clearly that Education Scotland has been failing to perform its core functions.

“The SNP were warned when they merged the Inspectorate into Education Scotland that it was a mistake, and so it has proven.

“The Government must accelerate its timetable for scrapping the hapless organisation so that a new agency can get on with doing just that.”

Willie Rennie MSP, Scottish Lib Dem education spokesperson, said: “With some schools already going years without an inspection, it’s time to consider whether the present inspection regime is fit for purpose.”

Scottish Conservative education spokesperson Oliver Mundell, said: “There are serious questions for the SNP to answer as to why hundreds of schools haven’t been inspected for a decade or more.

“They can’t hide behind the Covid pandemic here. Parents will be appalled that SNP Ministers have routinely failed to ensure their child’s school is being inspected.

“This is a total dereliction of duty from Education Scotland.

“There has been a huge conflict of interest between the SNP Government and Education Scotland for far too long.

“It should not have taken the SNP so long to address these long-standing problems.

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“As our schools recover from the pandemic, it is crucial that the SNP Government guarantee that inspections can take place with much more regularity than they have done in recent years.”

Jo Bisset, organiser for parents group UFTScotland, added: “Even what we perceive as the very best schools should be inspected fairly regularly.

“The fact so many have gone more than a decade without a proper check is clearly wrong, and changes need to take place to ensure that radically improves.

“It means there are thousands of children who’ve gone through their entire school journey without their surroundings and quality of education being inspected.

“We know from official statistics that there are too many schools which simply aren’t up to scratch, and a poor inspection regime is only going to make that worse.” 

Scottish schools are graded on a six-point scale which ranges from unsatisfactory, weak, satisfactory, good, very good and excellent across four categories which cover leadership, attainment, wellbeing plus learning and teaching.

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The Education Scotland recently said it would restart inspections after an 18-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic with staff adopting a “phased approach” to scrutiny activity. 

Chiefs at the standards body said their initial focus going forward would be on education establishments that were due to have a further inspection.

But Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said any return to school inspections would be “wholly inappropriate in the context of continuing Covid disruption and the current unprecedented levels of teacher and pupil absence”. 

He added: “Rather than inspecting schools, Education Scotland’s efforts should be channelled firmly in the direction of supporting schools as they continue to respond to the Covid crisis, maintaining education provision for young people in very difficult circumstances. 

“School inspections are of limited value and impact at the best of times.

“The EIS would like to see a reformed agency dedicating itself to supporting teaching and learning.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The number of school inspections increased in 2018-19 and that number would have increased further in 2019-20 had it not been for the pandemic.”

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