Scottish education ‘poacher and gamekeeper’ structure not working

by Niall Christie

SCOTLAND’S failing education system will not improve until its governing body is split in two, according to Scotland’s biggest teaching union.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), claims that the lack of separation between policy makers and inspectors in the country’s schools is causing harm.

Mr Flanagan said: “In addition to our concerns over the quality of support offered by Education Scotland to schools, we still have concerns over its increasingly politicised role.

“With the inspection function having been brought closer to government, legitimate questions have arisen about the independence of the inspection process and its relationship to government policy.”

The general secretary’s comments come after Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott used his party’s education debate in Holyrood to suggest a separation.

These concerns have come to a head after the quango’s chief, Bill Maxwell, published a report criticising the drop in numeracy and literacy skills in Scottish children, which are a result of their own policies.

Mr Scott said: “Inspiring teachers and great school leadership are at the heart of rebuilding Scottish education to the world class service we all want.

“This cannot be achieved when Education Scotland is both poacher and gamekeeper.”

Splitting Up Ed Scot

Until the creation of Education Scotland in 2010, inspections and policy writing for schools was provided by separate organisations, HM Inspectorate of Education and Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS).

With the retirement of education chief Bill Maxwell coming this June, pressure has been put on Education Secretary John Swinney to revert back to the previous set-up.

John Swinney and Bill Maxwell
Education Secretary John Swinney (left) with Education Scotland Chief Bill Maxwell (middle)

An amendment by Mr Swinney was passed in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, compelling the government to “strongly consider” the possibility of returning to a split model.

Mr Flanagan added: “The decision to merge HMIe and LTS in 2010 prompted the EIS to raise concerns around the dual functions of the single organisation.

“Some seven years on, the EIS believes there remain tensions.”

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