Education agency staff lose faith in management

Education bosses with responsibility for maintaining classroom standards have lost the confidence of their own employees, a survey of hundreds of staff has revealed.

The Education Scotland agency has come under sustained scrutiny over recent months amid evidence of declining standards and accusations that it faces a clear conflict of interest given its role in inspecting schools as well as shaping the curriculum.

A survey of its workers, released yesterday as the future of the organisation came under the microscope at Holyrood, showed that about six in ten believed that Education Scotland was not managed well, compared with less than a quarter who did.

At a time of major upheaval in Scottish education, only 11 per cent of staff said they believed that the organisation managed change well, compared with 70 per cent who did not.

The percentage of workers who said that they were proud to work for the agency fell by 16 per cent compared with the previous year and only 20 per cent said they had confidence in decisions taken by the leadership team, compared with 52 per cent who did not.

Tavish Scott, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, repeated his call for the organisation to be broken up. “This survey demonstrates the inherent failures within Education Scotland’s conflicting roles. The quango operates as both inspectorate and policymaker. That does not work.”

He added: “Staff have lost confidence in Education Scotland to the point where less than a quarter believe that it is managed well. Just one in ten employees think it manages change well. The Scottish government should now accept the benefits to education in separating these conflicting roles.”

The survey, completed by four in five Education Scotland workers, showed that the proportion of staff who wanted to leave their jobs “as soon as possible” doubled in the past 12 months to 20 per cent. A further 16 per cent said they wanted to quit within a year.

The education secretary, John Swinney, said Scotland’s agencies were “contributing a significant amount to the delivery of Scottish education”.

Evidence provided to the parliament’s education committee revealed concerns among teachers about Education Scotland, particularly on an alleged conflict of interest and large amounts of guidance, while responses were even more damning about the performance of the Scottish Qualifications Agency (SQA).

Ross Thomson, the Tory MSP, said: “Fundamentally, the SQA and Education Scotland has lost the confidence of teachers. This should raise the most serious concerns for all of us.”

An Education Scotland spokeswoman said it had set up focus groups to give staff the chance to share views and it was drawing on this feedback to ensure that it took effective action to address the issues alongside unions.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “It’s important that Education Scotland considers the results of its annual staff survey and works with trade unions to address the issues raised, and we expect them to do so.

“This government has an unwavering focus on improving Scotland’s education system to make it world class.”