Education Scotland embroiled in transparency row

Written by: Sam Phipps | Published:

Scottish schools inspectors have come under fire after they admitted “hiding” inspection reports more than five-years-old and discarding those more than eight.

Education Scotland has carried out a “breathtaking” attack on transparency that makes it impossible to discern how schools are progressing over a long period, opposition politicians said.

The government agency said its policy of removing “outdated” reports meant those published before April 2008 had been destroyed, while the public no longer has online access to reports dating back more than five years.

Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, said the admission was “simply astonishing, irresponsible behaviour by the key public body responsible for Scotland’s school system”.

He said: “Education Scotland has been under fire before for acting in the interests of Scottish ministers rather than Scottish schools and pupils, but to destroy records so that we cannot judge progress or otherwise in schools is breathtaking.

“Not only does it show contempt for the historical context of developments in Scottish schools, it looks like nothing less than a wilful attempt to frustrate transparency and Freedom of Information legislation.”

Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, said historical record-keeping was a vital part of being a regulator: “It is in the public interest that there should be a record of what has been done – that principle was established 200 years ago. Frankly, it’s irresponsible that they do not hold this information.”

The move emerged after an investigation by TES Scotland last month into how long Scottish schools had gone without having an inspection report.

It found some schools had gone up to 15 years without being inspected. Although most secondaries have had an inspection, five per cent have yet to face one since a new approach was introduced in 2008, along with about a quarter of primary schools.

In response, Education Scotland stated: “In April 2008, Education Scotland changed the school sampling methodology and inspection information prior to this change has been deleted.”

It also emerged that it has removed reports more than five years old from its public website. Graeme Logan, new interim chief inspector at Education Scotland, said school reports before 2009 were too old to be of public value. National reports, which cover the overall state of Scottish education, allowed progress to be judged at a system level, he argued.

However, he said he had asked for a new “retention policy” to be drafted to explain to the public and to schools how long reports would be kept online.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “The interim chief inspector of education has made clear his intention to review and strengthen Education Scotland’s processes.”


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