Torridon Primary School HMIE inspections Media coverage 2006-2013
Ross-shire Journal 7 July 2006
Ross-shire Journal, 6 July 2007
Ross-shire Journal 13 July 2007
Daily Record 21 February 2011 http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2011/02/21/why-have-you-suspended-ourheadmistress-86908-22938872/
Press and Journal 22 February 2011 http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2147698
West Highland Free Press 4 March 2011
Daily Herald Saturday 2 June 2012
Anger as primary school mothballed A VILLAGE primary school is to be mothballed following the suspension of the headteacher. The decision by Highland Council has dismayed villagers in the remote community of Torridon who have campaigned for the headteacher, Anne Macrae, to be reinstated. "Anne Macrae has never had proper support from the council and now they are treating us all this way – all the other staff have been poorly treated too," said Maggie Smith, a former cook at Torridon Primary whose children were taught at the school. Ms Macrae, head teacher at the primary school for 18 years, was suspended without warning on August 16, 2010. Her supporters claim that no formal reason was given for the suspension and a petition of 60 names from the sparsely-populated area was raised in protest at the decision. A formal complaint was also made to HMIE after an inspection was carried out at the school in March 2010 while Ms Macrae – the head and only teacher at the school – was off ill. With Ms Macrae's position still unresolved, the two remaining pupils have recently been moved by the parents to schools in nearby villages. A council spokeswoman said: "Torridon Primary School currently has no children attending. "Two families have withdrawn their children. The council will be meeting with the community soon to discuss mothballing of the school. We are liaising with staff to redeploy them." HMIE has refused to comment.
The Mail on Sunday 3 June 2012
http://www.deadlinenews.co.uk/2012/06/04/two-heads-and-no-pupils-council-funds-empty-school/ Monday, June 4th, 2012 | Posted by Kirsty Topping
Two heads and no pupils: council funds empty school A SCOTS council is shelling out at least £100,000 to have two headteachers at a tiny primary school with no children. Highland council is understood to be paying the present and former heads at Torridon Primary, Wester Ross, at least £48,000 each even though the last pupil left last week. Three part time staff, including cleaners, are being kept on at the mothballed school, meaning the bill will run well into six figures.
The tiny primary school has two head teachers – and no pupils The council claims it is necessary to keep staff on for “administrative” reasons ahead of mothballing at an unspecified date. The current acting headteacher, Peter Fenton, is in charge of the “ghost school” but his predecessor, Anne Macrea, is also on full pay despite being suspended almost two years ago. Ms Macrae was removed from her post following a series of poor inspections at the school going as far back as 2004, when the school taught eight pupils. The last remaining pupil moved to a school in Kinlochewe last week. One local resident said keeping the school going was a “staggering waste of taxpayers’ money”.
And Robert Oxley, Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s downright absurd that taxpayers are paying for even one head teacher for this empty school, let a alone two. “With no one to educate either the teachers need to be transferred or let go. Taxpayers can’t afford to pay for staff to do nothing all day. “ Despite keeping Torridon Primary open, Highland Council – which is reportedly looking for cuts worth £40m by 2015 – has been at the centre of several rows over education cutbacks. Last year, the council announced it was cutting £300,000 of funding to a traditional music school. The council stopped the cash to the National Centre of Excellence inTraditional Music, Plockton. The school was saved after the Scottish Government pledged £600,000 in a partnership with universities. The council was also forced to backtrack on a recent plan to get rid of 344 classroom assistants in primary schools. It was recently revealed that the council is spending £250 a day ferrying a pupil to school in Fort William from the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula. Ms Macrea, meanwhile, is the subject of three petitions to Highland Council, one demanding she be given her job back and another insisting reasons be given for her removal. Supporters claim the council ignored Ms Macrae’s accomplishments, such as inviting famous faces to come and talk to the pupils. The school’s former cook, Maggie Smith, said: “Anne Macrae has never had proper support from the council and now they are treating us all this way – all the other staff have been treated poorly, too.” A Highland Council spokesman said: “The school no longer has any pupils as two families have withdrawn their children. “The acting head teacher remains at work, attending to the administrative work necessary before the school is mothballed. “We are liaising with the staff to redeploy them.”
West Highland Free Press 8 June 2012
Ross-shire Jounral 15 June 2012
Who guards the guardians? News | Published in TESS on 17 August, 2012 | By: Elizabeth Buie HMIs’ complaints procedure comes under criticism Education Scotland will publish a new complaints procedure for school inspections next month, but the revised process will not include provision to appeal against inspectors’ professional judgements or evaluations, despite pressure to do so. The head of Plockton Primary, Niall MacKinnon, has been crusading on the issue for years, following the inspection of Torridon Primary in Highland in 2004 and six follow-up reports. He argued that HMIE used the old 5-14 guidelines to evaluate the single-teacher school when its head, Anne Macrae, was simply ahead of her time in implementing Curriculum for Excellence. Former education director Keir Bloomer also raised concerns about public accountability in a review of the Torridon Primary inspection process, which he was commissioned to write by HMIE last year. Kenneth Muir, director of inspection at Education Scotland, told TESS this week that he recognised the question of “who guards the guards?” remained, but asked: “If there was a post-inspection review, who would carry it out? “All we can do in terms of what we have control over is to try and make the system as open, fair and transparent as we possibly can.” The new complaints procedure has been drawn up as part of Education Scotland’s ongoing review of its policies and includes advice from the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, said Mr Muir. The ombudsman will not investigate a dispute about professional judgements or evaluations, he added, but will arbitrate only on whether a complaints procedure is robust, sound and deals with what it needs to deal with. It was standard practice for headteachers and education authorities to have the opportunity to challenge and discuss an HMI’s draft report prior to publication, he said. Even at the post-publication stage, reports could still be amended if additional evidence was submitted that was deemed relevant. In recent years, the focus of inspection had moved in favour of professional dialogue with a school, he stressed. Anne Macrae was suspended from her post at Torridon Primary two years ago. Her case was taken up with the ombudsman by John Spalding, a retired primary head from England, who had a holiday home in the area. He argued that the report was “unjust, unfair and unnecessarily damning”. But he was told he had no locus, or legal entitlement, to demand a review of the judgements made by the inspectors.
HMIE appointed Keir Bloomer, former education director at Clackmannanshire, to carry out an external review of Mr Spalding’s complaint last year. His remit, he said, was to look at the way in which Mr Spalding’s complaint had been dealt with at earlier stages - not to consider “the validity or otherwise or the evaluations made by inspectors”. Mr Bloomer told TESS: “I think the first major issue that my report unearthed was that the way in which their current procedures are interpreted by HMIE means they don’t give scope to someone to challenge the inspectors’ findings and judgements. “Two things are worrying about that. In the case of Mr Spalding, no one ever told him that - he always thought he would get an answer to the real questions he was asking when in fact he never would. “The other more general question is whether for a major public agency that is an appropriate way for dealing with a complaint.” Mr Bloomer acknowledged that it was not in the public interest to open up to external review every minor or major complaint about a school inspection as this would “effectively stop the inspection process taking place”. But he added: “I tend to feel that if there is a complaint which is of significance and contains an element of public interest - and a priori seems to be at least a debatable case - then there ought to be somewhere to go. “I am not suggesting an open door entirely, but some sort of manageable process.” Elizabeth Buie firstname.lastname@example.org.
Small Primary is 'Mothballed' News | Published in TESS on 17 August, 2012
When Torridon Primary was inspected in 2004, it had seven pupils, including one child in the nursery class. This summer, Highland Council “mothballed” it as there were no pupils left. For the past two years, since its head and only full-time teacher Anne Macrae was suspended by her education authority, it has had an acting head, which has cost the council two salaries. The original HMIE report of 2004 found important weaknesses in the structure of the school curriculum and in learning and teaching, describing attainment in English and maths as “fair”. Between 2006 and 2011, there were six follow-through reports. In 2010, when Miss Macrae was on sick leave, the inspection team visited the school and issued the following verdict: “The headteacher has not clearly identified areas for school improvement. Progress since the last inspection has been too slow. The headteacher’s leadership is not focused enough on making the necessary improvements. The school’s systems for making improvements are too limited. Much more remains to be done to ensure that self-evaluation leads to improvements in learning and achievement.” Mr MacKinnon has written his own report on Torridon, in which he states: “Miss Macrae and Torridon Primary School require fair redress and resolution to the pejorative commentary placed against them, which they have not received, for there is no right of appeal and no right of complaint that can be applied to HMIE’s textual commentary. “The failure to incorporate and include Curriculum for Excellence should lead to substantial amendment of these reports of Torridon Primary School.” Times Educational Supplement for Scotland 17 August 2012
Problems with the inspectors Letters | Published in TESS on 7 September, 2012 | By: Niall MacKinnon Your news items “Who guards the guardians?” and “Small primary is ‘mothballed’” (17 August) referred to the eight HMIE inspections of Torridon Primary 2004-11, and wrongly detailed my association. In April 2009, headteacher Anne Macrae approached me at a concert. This was the first I knew of her case. I visited subsequently, at a weekend, to give personal support. Anne felt she was being treated unjustly by HMIE via inspection report statements which negated the school’s practice, were not put to her at the time, contradicted national policy on curriculum change, and constituted unevidenced demolition of her professionalism. The most startling was the 2009 HMIE report statement: “The headteacher’s leadership is not sufficiently organised and focused to support further development.” Anne informed me that this was not put to her during the inspection. On visiting, I saw an astonishingly creative, attractive, stimulating learning environment, with demonstrable richness of practice, extensive community involvement, imaginative contexts for learning, involvement of a wide range of external partners near and far, informative, innovative planning and extensive evidence of pupil learning and achievement, in the widest sense. Attainment has been 100 per cent for six years, with considerable “over-attainment”. Anne was last present during the 2009 inspection, for which the Standards and Quality report, and School Improvement Plan were detailed, rich, well- presented documents, outlining in considerable detail the school’s commendable achievements and planned developments. Remarkably, many of these are referred to in the 2009 inspection report itself. On this prima facie evidence alone, HMIE’s statement above is false. The school complained about this, as did others, including former headteacher John Spalding. HMIE has not responded. For the 2010 inspection, of a one-teacher school, Anne was not present, being off work ill. That report, of June 2010, presents unsubstantiated personal criticism, which also forms the basis of complaints to HMIE. HMIE gave lengthy discursive justification, referring only to the 5-14 curriculum, without mentioning Curriculum for Excellence once, in April 2011. The independent adjudicator was not permitted to investigate the substantive points of complaint. In July 2011 Bill Maxwell, CEO of the new Education Scotland, wrote to Mr Spalding: “I hope you will accept we have done all that we can to deal with your case fairly.” The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman refused to investigate, even regarding procedural aspects. Numerous letters of support and enquiry from many involved locally did not receive substantive reply. Niall MacKinnon, Sirius, Avernish, Ross-shire. Times Educational Supplement for Scotland 7 September 2012
Your account was not fair Letters | Published in TESS on 14 September, 2012 | By: Cathy Ross I was saddened to read your two news stories about the closure of Torridon Primary and the two-year suspension of headteacher Anne Macrae (17 August). Your report did not give a fair account. I was Miss Macrae’s headteacher in Lochcarron Primary. She was a fabulous teacher. After my retirement, I did supply work for her in Torridon Primary. One only had to step inside to appreciate the rich learning environment. The new curriculum is what she had in place. Personal criticisms of Miss Macrae in the 2010 HMIE report were unfair because she was off work and unwell. How can it be just to make personal criticisms of someone and put these in the public domain when the person has no input and no right to reply? Miss Macrae’s teaching is imaginative and inspiring. Two of her ex-pupils went on to become dux of their high school. Torridon Primary just oozed quality, and attainment had been 100 per cent year on year for some time. What has been happening just doesn’t make sense. Both sides of the case need to be tested fairly, with an external panel of senior educationalists unassociated with HMIE or Highland Council. Cathy Ross, former headteacher. Times Educational Supplement for Scotland 14 September 2012
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
New GERM outbreak in Scotland This was written by Niall MacKinnon who is a Scottish school principal. Niall MacKinnon highlights the need for rigorous GERM infection control measures in education reform programs. You can read an extended version on this article here. By Niall MacKinnon In his speech to the Scottish Learning Festival this September, cabinet secretary Michael Russell claimed that GERM is not for Scotland. The Global Education Reform Movement is a concept of Finnish educationalist Pasi Sahlberg, presented in his recent book Finnish Lessons. The features of GERM are standardizing teaching and learning, a focus on literacy and numeracy, teaching a prescribed curriculum, management models from the corporate world and test-based accountability and control. Scotland’s recent tightly controlled educational landscape of attainment targets, performance indicators and inspection judgements was an example of GERM. But Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) opened up a different pathway in the central “four capacities” concept, emphasizing and integrating wider focuses of linkage and personal development in revisioning pedagogy. CfE showed close affinity with the Finnish Way, outlined by Sahlberg as the antidote to GERM. Finland encouraged risk-taking, learning from the past, owning innovations, shared responsibility and trust through professional dialogue. A central feature of decluttering for CfE was to focus on innovative approaches, emphasizing practice innovation and local professionalism, termed ‘building the curriculum’. But just as this was coming together, linking proactive innovation, evaluation, and school systems to CfE, it fell apart. This was because of layers of prescription to different performance criteria in new multiple audit schedules, inspection templates and standards and quality reporting, to non-CfE criteria. The main emphasis was not exploring pedagogy, but micro-specification to serve the needs of external control and standardized calibration of schools. Then came hundreds of “Es and Os” (experiences and outcomes) as a curriculum specification ‘painting by numbers’ kit. CfE was further lashed down to seven “required characteristics of successful implementation” framed in a product model of curriculum, delivery model of schooling and behaviorist model of audit. Self-evaluation split two ways, one as evaluation taking the concepts, principles and purposes, applying them evidentially yet discursively – GERM-free. The other, calibrating audit prescription to fixed, outdated notions and applying these in absolutist terms – GERM. This set up a huge conflict within CfE in Scotland, one which Sahlberg took from me in the chapter defining GERM in Finnish Lessons: “Niall MacKinnon, who teaches at Plockton Primary School, makes a compelling appeal for “locally owned questions and purposes in realising practice within the broader national policy and practice frameworks.” He gets right to the point of how GERM affects teachers and schools: “There is the real practical danger that without an understanding of rationale and theoretical bases for school development, practitioners may be judged by auditors on differing underlying assumptions to their own developmental pathways, and the universalistic grading schemas come to be applied as a mask or front giving pseudoscientific veneer to imposed critical judgments
which are nothing more than expressions of different views and models of education. Through the mechanism of inspection, a difference of conceptual viewpoint, which could prompt debate and dialogue in consideration of practice, is eliminated in judgmental and differential power relations. One view supplants another. Command and control replaces mutuality, dialogue and conceptual exploration matched to practice development. Those who suffer are those innovating and bringing in new ideas.” ” (p 104) The paragraph came from my 2011 paper ‘The Urgent Needs for New Approaches in School Evaluation to enable Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence’ in the international journal Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability. My argument there was that specifications, grading and judgementalism destroy conceptual innovation and local practice professionalism, thereby negating CfE. Torridon Primary School and its headteacher Anne Macrae was my inspiration for that paragraph, now the case exemplar of GERM worldwide in Finnish Lessons. Sahlberg shows how Finnish education placed central focus on professional dialogue, enabling pedagogy to link modern innovations to a long history of educational ideas. The central conceptual genius of CfE was the “four capacities” concept. It is not a slogan but a clarion call to get to know our pupils, and construct learning pathways by reaching out and revealing the dispositions latent in their potentials. These extend in so many ways out beyond conventional notions of learning, set in terms of delivery, targets and specifications. We need to unpack learning, garner systemic understanding and enable formative development progression, for pupils, educators and institutions working together, not a “clear plan from A to B” as the Scottish schools’ inspectorate currently mandates. Scotland is now in the midst of GERM warfare between specifications compliance and pedagogic innovation, fought out over the morale and professionalism of Scotland’s teachers. As Dr Sahlberg said of GERM on his blog (30 June) “As a consequence, schools get ill, teachers don’t feel well, and kids learn less”. Sadly GERM is for Scotland, and the case study of GERM is Scotland. But it could so readily not be, once this is ‘seen’ and something done about it, or rather undone, simply by removing the specificatory shroud and control freakery of judgmental absolutism to outdated notions. Let us ‘build the curriculum’ as intended and envisaged. The central lesson from Finnish Lessons is not what Finland did, but rather what Finland did NOT do to its education system. “Transformational” change in the nature of curriculum and its realization in school education, which Scotland “says” it is undertaking, is not going to come about without similarly transformational change in the means of getting there.
Labels: Andy Hargreaves, Canada, change, Dennis Shirley, education reform, finland, Finnish Lessons, GERM, Michael Fullan, Niall MacKinnon, Pasi Sahlberg, Scotland
for the love of learning Alberta, Canada, 7 November 2012
STANDARDS, PROCEDURES AND PUBLIC APPOINTMENTS COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO POST-LEGISLATIVE SCRUTINY WRITTEN SUBMISSION RECEIVED FROM JOHN SPALDING
Soon after retiring from a career in primary schools including the headship of three large primary schools I moved to Scotland in 2000 and in the next eight years returned to the classroom in seven Highland primary schools as a Voluntary Adult Helper, one of which was the primary school where I became a community member of its parent council. In August 2010 I learned that the headteacher had been suspended from post by the Highland Council on the basis of statements about her 'leadership' and 'planning' when these comments had not been put to her on the day of an inspection because she was not present due to illness. An inspection of this school had been conducted in her absence and the report which followed was not just an observation of what had been witnessed during the course of that single day but wide ranging conclusions had been drawn with regard to planning, development, curriculum, evaluation and assessment but more importantly, the leadership of the school. Who had set out the case for her school during that 2010 inspection, and how and when was it prepared and by whom? The headteacher had been found 'guilty' yet as of today's date, 7 February 2013 , no charge has been made, no investigation has taken place, nor has she been given the opportunity by HMIE/Education Scotland or Highland Council to defend herself in person. The points of her own formal complaint to HMIE of 31 August 2010 received no reply. It was because of this lack of due process and procedure in the conduct of the 2010 inspection report that in November 2010 I made a formal complaint to HMIE. It is now abundantly clear, both from the replies that I have received directly from HMIE inspectors, and from the observations of K.B. who was appointed to provide an independent external review, that I have received no adjudication of the substance of my complaint. On receipt of my letter dated 27 April 2011 an inspector A.D. concluded that my complaint should move to external review, but that letter was a substantial document of ten pages and K.B.acknowledged it to be a “very extensive letter” containing “detail of the complaint and introduces the additional suggestion that the whole inspection process had been invalid because conducted in terms of the 5.14 curriculum rather than the Curriculum for Excellence,,,,” and drawing attention to the “continuing failures to answer his original questions and produce evidence in support of the various judgements made.” K.B. made a telling final comment. “The effect is to create in the minds of complainants such as Mr Spalding an expectation of substantive responses to concerns about inspectors' judgements that will not, in fact, be forthcoming. Such a situation detracts from the credibility of the procedure” and will “reinforce in some people's mind a view of the Inspectorate as a judgemental but unaccountable body.” As far as I was concerned - was my complaint fairly handled, were the points of 1 22/34
complaint properly addressed, were they met with independent investigation and adjudication?. The answer is no in each case. Given that this was a major focus of Governmental attention with two formal enquiries, including the Crerar Review, it is astonishing that the anomalies and omissions in procedure which my complaint opened up have not met with due response and remedy. One Crerar Review implementation report begins “A key finding of the Crerar Review was that complaints' processes in our Public Services are not fit for purpose.” My experiences over the past two years have found that there is no complaints process for Scottish school inspections. The Inspectorate are a law unto themselves. The actions of those who draft and write these inspection reports are not subject to any form of independent scrutiny. A parallel can be drawn from conclusions in the Leveson report “far from holding power to account, the press is exercising unaccountable power which nobody holds to account.” Even so HMIe do state that “if you are not satisfied with the action we have taken at the end of our complaints procedure, you can raise your complaint with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).” I did just that and placed my complaint to SPSO. But SPSO refused to adjudicate with the Ombudsman Jim Martin stating to me by letter on 23 March 2012 “that the substance of complaints about HMIE/Education Scotland inspection reports is not within my office's jurisdiction.” So two significant questions remain. Does the Scottish public sector operate due processes of public accountability? If not, then when will it?
JOHN SPALDING 7 FEBRUARY 2013
The Mail on Sunday 12 May 2013
The Daily Express 13 May 2013
The Scottish Sun 13 May 2013 http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/news/4925209/No-school-head-teacher-stillgets-50000-salary.html
21 May 2013
The continuing cover-up over school inspections Richard Burton
Irene Hogg Kenneth Roy raises the important question of the need to defend the rights of investigative journalism (9 May). He is right to highlight the sad case of headteacher Irene Hogg who died at her own hand shortly after her school's inspection in 2008, distraught at the feedback she received of her own personal professional qualities. The fatal accident inquiry concluded that Miss Hogg's death was 'inextricably linked' to her school's inspection just a few days before. Yet the sheriff considered that enough evidence had been given for him to present as formal finding that 'Irene Hogg proved herself to be an outstanding headteacher'. Kenneth Roy wondered 'whether there have been any changes in the manner of these inspections since the Hogg case. Are they less oppressive? Do they cause teachers less stress?' Ms Hyslop was education cabinet secretary at the time of the tragedy and subsequent fatal accident inquiry. She did not convene an inquiry into school inspections, where those still alive could comment on the process, for instance as convened by the Leveson Inquiry, and recently by the BBC following cases highlighting abuse and bullying. Amendment of procedures was shortly after steered by HMIE, tantamount to News International convening the Leveson Inquiry. What of the inspection complaints process? What became of those who complained of school inspections? A Freedom of Information request of HMIE of 18 January 2010, the month of publication of the fatal accident inquiry report, asked for 'figures on the
number of complaints over the past five years (2005-2010), how many of these were related to inspections of schools and the proportion of such complaints which were upheld; and in the case of complaints which were upheld, did this lead to any changes in the practice of inspections?' The answer given on 15 February 2010 was: 'The information that HMIE holds on formal complaints is not analysed to record whether a complaint was upheld or not and as such I am unable to provide you with the detailed information you have requested'. It went on to add: 'HMIE as a whole takes a keen interest in any lessons that can be learned from the nature of complaints as part of our commitment to continuous improvement'. How can it do that without keeping proper records? For this reason a complaint was placed on 30 June 2011 to HMIE that they did not operate a due inspection process because they did not keep records of complaint outcomes. HMIE (by then Education Scotland) denied this, refusing to uphold the complaint. When this reply was brought to the attention of the school inspection business manager as part of the complaint, she denied its content. The FOI reply was subsequently removed from the website. A complaint of a school inspection placed on 2 August 2008 took 17 months to go through the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman only to be deleted on 7 December 2009 without an investigation report (SPSO case 200800985). This was on the exact day the fatal accident inquiry into the death of Irene Hogg convened. Moreover, just before, on 1 December 2009 at an internal meeting including both the case investigator and the ombudsman in person, the investigator minuted: 'I felt that there was a claim of injustice arising at the core of the complaint in relation to HMIE not following due processâ€Ś' That was only revealed by the FOI. The Mail on Sunday on 12 May 2013 carried a report of a Scottish headteacher who has not worked for three years, suspended in August 2010 solely on the basis of inspection commentary, not at any time subject to disciplinary procedures, yet still on full pay. Her case went to formal complaint of the school inspectorate and then on to the ombudsman (SPSO case 201101603). It was complained of by both the headteacher and other members of the school community. She had not even been present at her one-teacher school during its inspection in 2010, being off work sick for some time previous. Yet the inspection report made personalised criticism in her absence, and this triggered the complaints. Why was the inspection not postponed? Again the case was dismissed by the ombudsman, Jim Martin, without an investigation report. This time he stated to the complainant: 'My view is that the substance of complaints about HMIE/Education Scotland inspection reports is not within my office's jurisdiction...' (23 March 2012) The complaints system of school inspection was then reviewed shortly after, placing the ombudsman service as the only independent recourse in the procedure. The ombudsman commented in the annual report of 2012 that he had been consulted in drafting it. Might all this not be a hint that something is amiss in our 'dark, secretive little country', as Kenneth Roy puts it? Could it not be that we need more open penetrative inquiry, not less? There does need to be a code of conduct of the press to prevent harassment and reporting without evidence (as has occurred in the present context). But there
already is. What is needed is some means of adjudication and redress covering all press titles. But there is a far more profound need of heightened penetrative inquiry of public agencies and individuals in public positions seeking to place their deeds beyond public purview. The Scottish Government might better address these procedural failings. A fatal accident inquiry should not be the sole external remedy for airing complaints of improper conduct or unfair and unevidenced commentary of a public body. Such failings of natural justice are lamentably widespread in the Scottish public sector and are the concern of Accountability Scotland, on whose behalf I write. Richard Burton is secretary of Accountability Scotland
Scottish Review 13 June 2013
The disturbing facts behind my sister's death Roger Hogg
Irene Hogg, a headteacher in the Borders, was found dead in the Cheviot hills in March 2008. I write regarding Richard Burton's recent article (21 May) on the issue of school inspections and the attendant fall-out. I am Irene Hogg's brother and was involved in the FAI that followed her death, albeit almost two years later and after much lobbying. I have to say that I was enormously disappointed by the whole FAI process, which seemed little more than another futile administrative exercise. The family trod a fine line between wanting to extract all the details from the participants, the local authority and HMIE (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education) inspectors, whilst at the same time trying to avoid added pain for our mother and father. I did not want to pursue the local authority in the courts as it seemed wasteful of everyone's resources. We had hoped that the FAI would force HMIE and the local authorities to take more care, but it seems from Mr Burton's article that nothing has changed. All continue on as before. We had hoped that someone, anyone, within the structure of Scottish education would have grasped the fact that devoted people's lives are being seriously affected by the way that inspections are foisted upon schools, and the way in which they are carried out. 30/34
Irene was about to take early retirement from teaching – in fact, she had one term and one week left. Yet still it was deemed reasonable to have an inspection of her school, even though she herself had made it quite clear to the education authority that she was in serious difficulty with her joint administrative and teaching roles, added to which, staffing issues meant that her own support was limited. Let us not forget, Irene had been a headteacher for many, many years and she knew the ropes. She was highly respected and was a valued member of several professional bodies, including the Headteachers' Association. Irene was no weak link, as anyone who knew her would confirm. Just to reiterate what the FAI appeared disinterested in – Irene was about to retire. Little, or more likely nothing, could have been gained from having an inspection of a school which would have had a new headteacher for the coming school year. Irene had made it abundantly clear to local authority senior staff, including the director, that she was not coping (which, for someone as strong-minded as Irene, would have been a major admission). The director of education did not seek to defer or cancel the inspection – no support personnel from local authority HQ were present in the school at any time in the week of the inspection. Irene had to mind all the children in the school by herself after her own 'feedback' session with the HMIE inspectors. I was told that the local authority had been trying to recruit an extra teacher for the school, but that the person selected failed to turn up on the start day, and nothing more was done. The FAI also heard that there were staff counselling and support services available to Irene, but I have to say that I am unaware of any such thing. They may exist in documentation. After Irene's death, there was no counselling service or facility whatsoever for either the staff of the school or the children. This begs the question of what effects the circumstances will have had on young minds. Had such a thing happened in a USA school, the place would have been flooded with counsellors, partly as a strong response, and partly as a protection against being sued for breach of duty of care to staff and children alike. Taken as a whole, this whole event was a litany of disasters – but no-one was held to account. Nothing was done, and now it seems that nothing has changed. May God help us, for it seems that we will not help ourselves.
Accountability Scotland Conference Proceedings Making Scottish Public Services Accountable The Scottish Parliament Committee Room 3 - Monday 16th Sept 2013
Education John Stuart - Deputy Convener Accountability Scotland Retired teacher of English and learning support who retains a keen interest in education.
Tales from the front line: One unaccountable inspector can ruin head teachers’ lives, causing unfair suspension, illness and even suicide (Scottish Review, 21 May 2013.) Very small schools are particularly vulnerable. Headteachers cannot get administrative justice through the SPSO. School inspection complaints and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman This paper is about the Scottish school inspectorate, HMIE, now within the Government executive agency, Education Scotland. The agency has an important role in ensuring standards and promoting quality but to what extent is it accountable for its very considerable powers? In 2008 a headteacher died at her own hand shortly after her school’s inspection, distraught at the feedback she had received about her own personal professional qualities. Yet at the following fatal accident inquiry, the sheriff presented as formal finding that she had “proved herself to be an outstanding headteacher”. Following considerable media coverage a freedom of information request asked for figures on complaints of school inspections and the proportion which were upheld. HMIE replied stating, “I am unable to provide you with the detailed information you have requested.” In another case, a complaint about a school inspection placed in March 2007, taken to the SPSO in August 2008, took a further 17 months inside SPSO, only to be deleted without an investigation report, in December 2009. Yet at an internal meeting a few days before, including both the case investigator and the ombudsman in person, the investigator had minuted: ‘I felt that there was a claim of injustice arising from maladministration at the core of the complaint in relation to HMIE not following due process…’ That, however, was only revealed by Freedom of Information enquiry. In May 2013 The Mail on Sunday reported on a Scottish headteacher who had not worked for three years, suspended on full pay in August 2010 solely on the basis of inspection commentary, but not at any time subject to investigation or disciplinary procedures. She had not even been present at her one-teacher school during its inspection, having been off sick. The inspection report made personalised criticism of her in her absence. She complained to the school inspectorate. Her case was taken to the ombudsman. In March 2012 the SPSO dismissed the case without an investigation report, this time with the significant statement that, ‘My view is that the substance of complaints about HMIE/Education Scotland inspection reports is not within my office’s jurisdiction...’ Yet the revised Education Scotland complaints system of 2012 states, “If, after receiving our response to your complaint and you remain unhappy, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to consider your complaint.” The 2012 SPSO annual report states that the SPSO was consulted on its drafting. Significantly the stage of independent adjudication of the former complaints system was removed from the revised scheme leaving the SPSO as the only independent recourse available in the procedure. So, what if a headteacher is not present during the inspection, of a single-teacher school? What if an inspection does not follow proper procedures? What if a report is found subsequently to criticize adversely what was not actually observed or to contain what appears to be blatant fabrication? These formed the basis of the complaints referred to. The Ombudsman would appear to regard such maladministration as opinions of the inspectors that he cannot question. What, then, is the role of the Ombudsman with regard to school inspections? What aspects of maladministration would the SPSO investigate or report on in regard of school inspections? Lacking case decision reports on these complaints we do not know. The principal point is that the school inspectorate has the power to ruin the lives of teachers and disrupt school communities with no independent avenues of complaint or adjudication available to the victims. The system is clearly not fit for purpose. Summary Schools are inspected by Education Scotland, which has incorporated the former HMIE. School inspection reports can seriously disrupt both schools and the lives of teachers. The SPSO appears to regard any maladministration by inspectors as opinions that he cannot question. No other body has the power to investigate in regard of inspections.
Postscript: Two snippets from the evidence file Excerpt from the 2004 HMIE report:
Attainment 2004-2009 on 5-14 target setting criteria.
Source: Complaint by John Spalding, ex-headteacher and former community member of Torridon Primary School Parent Council, of the June 2010 HMIE inspection of Torridon Primary School. This took forward the complaint of the head teacher of 31 August 2010, which received no substantive response from HMIE. She had not taken part in the inspection, of a oneteacher school, due to being off work unwell.