Section 9 – Inspection of education authority
26.Section 9 complements the powers of inspection of schools contained in section 66(1) of the 1980 Act. It gives a new power to Scottish Ministers to request an inspection of a local authority in relation to their school education functions. Previously there had been no provision for the inspection of education authorities. The persons who may be requested to carry out the inspection are Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools (HMI) as defined in section 135(1) of the 1980 Act, or any other person appointed by Scottish Ministers, or HMI and such other persons together. In allowing inspection by HMI and other persons together, this provision goes further than that in section 66(1) of the 1980 Act.
27.Section 9(1) provides for the inspection of education authorities, but only in relation to the exercise of their functions in relation to the provision of school education, which includes pre-school education. It is envisaged that the main focus of inspection would be on the quality of the management of schools and meeting the purposes of the Act and the 1980 Act. Inspection need not be limited to the education department of the authority but could cover activities of other departments which were relevant to the authority’s school education functions. However, how local education authorities organise their finances and conduct their administration generally would not primarily be matters for HMI : these would be matters for audit and local commissioners to investigate.
28.Section 9(2) allows for inspections of the carrying out of the general function and in relation to aspects of the function. Accordingly, the teaching of primary education could be looked at generally, or literacy among primary pupils. These functions would not include review of an individual case or investigation of an individual case, unless that matter arose as incidental to the review of a function or aspect of a function.
29.Section 9(3) gives the education authority a duty to help those carrying out the inspection. This provision assumes co-operation between those inspecting and the education authority and, unlike section 66(3) of the 1980 Act, does not create a criminal offence of obstructing an investigation.