This is an email received from a member of Accountability Scotland when he joined.
As a new member of AS, I share the concern of other members with regard to the lack of transparency and accountability in a number of Scottish Public Authorities. Of particular interest to me is the school inspection process.
In 2009, following an FOI request, I discovered that a pre-inspection report(PIR), agreed with a school using all available data, had been secretly altered before being forwarded to HMIE. As a result, HMIE agreed to review their procedures "to avoid any possibility of an issue like this happening in the future".
HMIE also confirmed that: "While HMIE actively encouraged councils to be open with their schools in the spirit of partnership, decisions as to whether the pre-inspection report was shared with a school were a matter for individual councils. Our experience was that many councils openly shared their pre-inspection reports but some councils, including the City of Edinburgh Council(CEC) did not." In reality, the PIR was shared with the school but then secretly altered. No-one at the CEC could explain why there were two versions of one report and, as any covering letter had been destroyed, no-one at HMIE could remember who they would normally receive PIRs from in the CEC which is surprising to say the least.
Eventually, following an internal inquiry and considerable correspondence, the Chief Executive(CEC) confirmed that the PIR had been "amended and approved" by the Head of Quality Assurance and that this was normal practice and in no way unusual. However, as the altered information had been copied directly from an official Council report, already amended and approved by Quality Assurance, this explanation made no sense at all.
I can only suspect, therefore, that it has been common practice for pre-inspection reports to be altered to secretly manipulate the school inspection process in some LAs, with the knowledge of HMIE / Education Scotland and the Scottish Government. It should be noted that Education Scotland continues to insist that the school inspection process is "independent, fair, transparent, open and inclusive".
Whilst the CEC has been forced to review its procedures, it still maintains that the Head of Quality Assurance was authorised to alter PIRs, without the knowledge of the QIOs who compiled the reports or those directly affected, without providing any supporting evidence and without keeping a record of the changes on file at CEC headquarters. Given the seriousness of my findings, it is perhaps not surprising that the CEC has refused to inform schools and parents about their previous practice.
When I referred my complaint about the lack of transparency in the use of PIRs in the school inspection process to the SPSO, in accordance with HMIE's own complaints procedures, it was rejected as a "personnel matter". I understand that the SPSO has since confirmed that it is not a regulator for HMIE / Education Scotland so, in effect, there is no independent authority overseeing Education Scotland and the school inspection process.
His experiences are NOT unique. There are three other members who have experienced the same type of treatment.