Teachers warned of the problem with handling the two roles given to Education Scotland – a Government agency set up to improve school standards.
Previously, HM Inspectorate of Education was responsible for inspecting schools and Learning and Teaching Scotland was in charge of classroom materials and support.
The two roles were deliberately kept separate by former Scottish Labour education minister Jack McConnell in 2001 to prevent undue influence by HMIE on what was being taught.
However, the formation of Education Scotland earlier this year by the Scottish Government brought the two organisations together.
Larry Flanagan, education convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) – the country’s largest teaching union – warned of the impact of the decision.“We have concerns about a potential conflict between the dual function of support and inspection in the new organisation,” he said.
“What we will be looking closely at is whether the new body will be capable of carrying out the inspection role, but also providing genuine support to schools which is non- judgmental.
“Another question will be, operationally, how they manage the two separate functions. If they keep them separate then it does beg the question why they were brought together in the first place.”
Ken Macintosh, MSP, Labour’s education spokesman, echoed the concerns. “The Government is motivated by desire to save money, which is right, but there is also the obsession with reducing the number of quangos,” he said. “The conflict here is a very real one and we need to be on our guard to ensure the new organisation can deliver these differing roles.”
However, Dr Bill Maxwell, chief executive of Education Scotland, said steps were being taken to ensure both roles were delivered effectively. “There is a tremendous opportunity in having a closer connection between the two roles because you want the support for schools to be closely linked to what is needed and what is working,” he said.
“However, we need to maintain a clear firewall within the organisation to keep the evaluation side objective, impartial and independent and that that is guaranteed.”
Mr Maxwell also said there had been a lot of change within Scottish education in the past decade. “The development of the new curriculum now is a much more collaborative process which involves teachers in the design. It is not a matter of an inspectorate prescribing a curriculum which everyone then has to adopt,” he added.
“The inspection process has also changed completely and it is now a process of performance coaching which helps schools identify ways in which they can improve themselves.”
Speaking before the launch of Education Scotland earlier this year, Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, said the organisation would have an important role to play in “achieving our aspirations” for Scottish education.
“I believe our education system is already delivering well for our learners. However, it is also clear more can be done to deliver a stronger focus on performance, raise attainment and ambition for all our children and young people and continue to roll out Curriculum for Excellence.
“However, it is also clear more can be done to deliver a stronger focus on performance, raise attainment and ambition for all our children and young people and continue to roll out Curriculum for Excellence. I look forward to working with Bill and his team to further improve Scottish education and the life chances of each and every learner in Scotland.”