Midlothian education chiefs anger over fifth inspection for primary school

Plans to carry out a fifth inspection of an under performing primary school in five years have been criticised by Midlothian education chiefs as 'not in its best interest'.

Education Scotland has visited Lawfield Primary School, in Mayfield, four times since December 2020 after it found children's learning in some areas had fallen behind the rest of the county.

Inspectors described its work to raise attainment for pupils as 'weak' and returned for updates even during the pandemic.

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A report to Midlothian Council's SNP administration cabinet today said the most recent inspection had acknowledged improvements were being made at the school, which has received additional support from the local authority's attainment team, describing it as a 'very positive start'.

However the council's education chief operating officer Michelle Strong said the decision by inspectors to schedule another review in the next 12 months was not 'accepted'.

She told the meeting: "The school was first inspected at the end of 2019 and then revisited in the autumn of 2021 and again in March 2023.

"When visited this year inspectors did note the positive progress made and acknowledge the significant work put in place.

"Despite a very positive verbal feedback session at the end of the inspection process we were disappointed HMI (His Majesty's Inspectors) are insistent that they will return for a further inspection in 12 months time.

"Midlothian education service have been clear with HMI that we do not accept this next step and do not believe it to be in the best interest of the school."

Local ward councillor Stewart McKenzie said feedback he received from parents of children at the school was positive but he asked Ms Strong if it was not the case that the inspectors were 'just really doing their job' bu returning.

She said: "I understand the importance of scrutiny and I've always been a great supporter of HMI in terms of of their role and function in the improvement agenda.

"However we do have to balance up a fifth inspection for a school which has gone through significant change. There are other ways to provide assurance to the public that doesn't have to be a fifth inspection."

An Education Scotland spokesperson said: “A key purpose of inspections is to provide assurance on the quality of education that children experience in Scottish schools. It is important that we undertake further visits when a school has areas identified as requiring improvement.

“During our recent visit to Lawfield Primary School, our HM Inspectors noted that the school is beginning to make progress since the original inspection. However, there are areas where there has not been sufficient progress and improvement, therefore HM Inspectors will continue to engage with the school.”

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