Primary school inspections
- Arrangements for inspecting schools
- Being ready for inspection
- Briefing for headteachers
- Guidance on issuing pre-inspection questionnaires
- Briefings for parents and Parent Councils
1. Arrangements for inspecting schools
Education Scotland aims to promote improvement in primary schools and successful innovation that enhances learners' experiences.
Our inspectors focus on the quality of children's learning and achievement. We have a particular interest in how the school is developing children's skills and understanding in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing
We will evaluate how well a school or early learning and childcare establishment is performing in a range of key areas. To support us to do this we will use a few quality indicators (QIs) from 'How good is our school? (4th edition)' and/or 'How good is our early learning and childcare?'.
Education Scotland completes inspections using a variety of models. This includes a full model inspection which covers four QIs, and a short model inspection which covers two QIs.
Partnership working with the Care Inspectorate
We sometimes work with the Care Inspectorate with regard to early learning and childcare setting inspections, including stand-alone centres and nursery classes in primary schools.
There may be a care inspector as part of the inspection teams for nursery classes in primary schools. The arrangements for working together enhances efficiency and joint-working and aims to streamline processes for providers.
2. Being ready for inspection
Briefing the inspection team on the establishment’s view of its improvement through self-evaluation
Our inspections provide the opportunity for early learning and childcare settings and schools to show that they know themselves inside out and that they are using self-evaluation to focus on improving all the achievements of children. When self-evaluation evidence is robust and convincing, we use it as part of the inspection evidence. It can also help identify good practice and innovation that Education Scotland may wish to look at in more detail as part of our continuing engagement after the inspection has been completed.
Before the inspection, you are asked to complete, in consultation with your education authority, a brief self-evaluation summary form.
At the start of the inspection you are invited to use your completed self-evaluation summary form to brief the inspection team on the impact of your approach to improvement through self-evaluation. You should set aside approximately one hour for this meeting. It is important that you cover outcomes for all learners who attend your establishment. This meeting will be the start of an ongoing dialogue with the inspection team about your establishment’s performance and improvement. Time is short and you will need to stick to high level messages.
It would be helpful to the inspection team if you:
- give a clear account of your establishment’s strengths and aspects for development
- demonstrate where the school or centre is improving and show how you know
- identify the key sources of evidence which underpin your knowledge of school/centre performance and improvement, and make these available
- show how you prioritise areas for improvement.
Evaluating your establishment
You will most likely use 'How good is our school? (4th edition)' and/or 'How good is our early learning and childcare?' as part of school/setting self-evaluation. You probably also use the six-point scale. Your own evaluations against the six-point scale will be helpful to the inspection team.
3. Briefing for headteachers
Throughout the inspection, we shall engage you and your staff in professional dialogue with the aim of supporting improvement.
The advice and support materials below have been designed to help you to prepare for the inspection and to outline the kinds of activities which will take place during the inspection. It aims to answer some of the questions you may have regarding the inspection.
Briefing note for headteachers of primary schools
This briefing note aims to help staff to understand the primary school inspection process.
School or establishment self-evaluation pro-forma
An inspection begins with a scoping meeting which builds on the school's self-evaluation. It will focus on how self-evaluation is leading to improvement and the evidence the school provides in the self-evaluation summary form.
Safeguarding/child protection pro-forma
This pro-forma is used to record information about safeguarding. Please hand your completed pro-forma to the managing inspector on the first day of the inspection. Do not send a completed version prior to the inspection team arriving at your school.
The Managing Inspector (MI) and/or delegated team member will discuss the pro-forma information provided with relevant staff during the inspection/review to add comments/evaluations as relevant.
4. Guidance on issuing pre-inspection questionnaires
Headteacher/head of setting guide for issuing pre-inspection questionnaires
An important aspect of the inspection is for key stakeholders to be given the opportunity to provide their views of the setting or school. To gather the views of learners, parents, staff and partners we ask the headteacher/head of setting to issue a pre-inspection questionnaire to these stakeholders. You’ll find a sample of the questionnaires below.
Within the email notifying you of the inspection, you will find a number of links to an online survey which holds the pre-inspection questionnaires. The links you will receive are set out below.
All learners from P4 and above should be sent the survey link. The learner pre-inspection questionnaire is not required for early learning and childcare settings nor children in P1 to P3.
Please make sure that learners have privacy to complete the questionnaires. You should reassure learners that once they have completed the survey, no-one in the school will see their answers. Inspection team members will not tell anyone about what a learner has written unless they are worried about the learner’s safety. In that case they will talk to the learner and pass it on to someone who can help. Where required, those learners with additional support needs should be helped to complete the survey.
All parents should receive the link to the pre-inspection questionnaire. Parents may complete a pre-inspection questionnaire for each of their children attending the school or setting being inspected. The pre-inspection questionnaire asks the parent to indicate if they shall be providing one response only or if they are providing one response for each of their children.
As part of the inspection, a member of the inspection team will meet with a range of stakeholders. Parents are asked within the pre-inspection questionnaire to indicate if they would like to meet with a member of the inspection team and, if so, to provide their contact details. The Inspection Administrator (IA) will contact a random sample of parents to invite them to the meeting.
All staff should receive the link the to pre-inspection questionnaire. We have created pre-inspection questionnaires for the following broad groupings. A survey link will be provided for each grouping in the notification email which you should circulate as appropriate:
- school support staff
- pupil support staff
- all staff practitioners in early learning and childcare settings.
We define partners within How good is our school? (4th edition) and How good is our early learning and childcare? to include all individuals or organisations that deliver learning and contribute to the life and work of the school/setting. They may include community learning and development services, colleges, universities, employers, third sector, community organisations and libraries. All those who work in partnership with your school/setting should be sent the link to the pre-inspection questionnaire.
Distributing the links
You should use the existing digital channels to inform these stakeholders of the inspection, the information that is available from our website and the appropriate link to the pre-inspection questionnaire. When sharing the links it is important to include the date which all responses must be completed by. We usually refer to this as the date the survey will close.
Methods for sharing the links include: using internal email for staff/practitioners; adding the links to your website (remember to remove when the survey has closed) for parents and partners; include the information within a group call or newsletters for parents, staff/practitioners and partners; connect with learners through Glow.
You are best placed to know the most effective ways of communicating and engaging with your stakeholders to ensure that as many as possible have the opportunity to provide their views about your school or setting. We have found that some schools and settings have, in addition to sending the links digitally, opened their doors to parents so that they can use the school’s devices to complete the pre-inspection questionnaires. For example, some schools invited parents to use the library and ICT suite facilities and another invited parents to complete the pre-inspection questionnaire during the Parents’ Evening.
We recognise that settings and schools will want to encourage as many of their stakeholders as possible to complete the pre-inspection questionnaire. To aid with this, the IA can provide you with a regular update on responses rates. Where, for example, the response rates are lower for a particular stakeholder group you could send another communication which reminds and encourages more responses.
What will we do with the information we gather?
We will use an online survey tool, provided by Formic, which holds the pre-inspection questionnaires and responses.
- Education Scotland will then store all responses confidentially on secure servers for a period of five years. Personal information provided by respondents will not be shared with any other third party organisation and will only be used for the purpose it was obtained in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation.
- Education Scotland is subject to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Further information is available on our website.
- Formic follows some of the principles of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Assistance may be required for those who use screen readers or keyboard-only controls.
- If your stakeholders wish to increase font size to help them complete the survey, it’s best to use the browser controls, for example, Internet Explorer offers options to increase text size via the view menu.
It is important that we protect the information that we gather through the pre-inspection questionnaires and that you and your stakeholders understand how we will do this.
- We may use the information for statistical purposes but no individual responses will be identified. We may give you a summary of the results of all the responses we receive.
- Views will remain confidential, unless they raise specific issues, for example in relation to child protection. In these circumstances, they would be shared with you and appropriate agencies.
- We will then store responses confidentially on secure servers for a period of five years.
- Personal information will not be shared with any other third party organisation and will only be used for the purpose it was obtained in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. We are also subject to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Further information is available on our website.
5. Briefings for parents and Parent Councils
Support and advice for Chairperson of Parent Council
As Chairperson of the Parent Council you will be interested to know that Education Scotland will shortly be inspecting your child’s school or setting. Gathering the views of parents is important to us during the inspection of a school or setting*. We consider these views carefully as part of the evidence during the inspection. We will want to know what you, as Chairperson of the Parent Council, think about the school and how it is doing. A member of the inspection team will arrange to meet with you during the inspection.
*Parent Councils do not have a legislative role in early learning and childcare settings. However, Parent Council members will be interested in all learners and all aspects of the work of the school
Briefing for parents
This section aims to help parents to understand the inspection of a primary school and, where relevant, a nursery class.
What happens in the inspection of your child’s primary school and nursery class?
Your child’s primary school/nursery class is to have an inspection to find out how well your child is being educated and looked after. The inspection team will take account of the type and nature of the school/nursery class and its children’s needs.
We will publish a letter to parents and carers that will highlight what the school or setting do well and where they need to improve.
Before the inspection
We gather the views of learners, staff, partners and parents using a pre-inspection questionnaire. You will be sent a link to the online survey by the school or setting which provides information about the survey and how to complete it.
All replies will be treated in confidence unless they raise issues about the safety or health and wellbeing of children or staff in the school.
Parents are invited to indicate if they would be available to meet with the inspection team during the week of inspection at the end of the pre-inspection questionnaire. We will contact parents to make arrangements.
An inspection team can be made up from our own inspectors along with others from similar organisations. Information given to us will be seen only by this team. We will not tell anyone else where our information came from unless the safety and wellbeing of a person is considered to be at risk.
During the inspection
An inspection team will visit your child’s school (and nursery class) or setting. The size of the inspection team is dependent on the school roll and can comprise of HM Inspectors, Associate Assessors, Assistant Inspectors, Health and Nutrition Inspectors and a Lay Member. Where there is a nursery class, it will be inspected by an inspector from Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate or by one inspector on behalf of both organisations. During the visit the inspection team:
- will visit classrooms/nursery playrooms, observe learning, and talk to staff and children about their learning
- may spend some time looking at your child’s work and reading his/her reports
- may work with your child as part of a small group or in a classroom/playroom.
After the inspection
We will publish a letter for parents on our website and share it with the education authority or Board of Governors, and where appropriate to the Chairperson of the Parent Council. We will also publish a document called the Summarised Inspection Findings (SIF) which provides some detail supporting the evaluations made by inspectors.
If necessary, the school, with the support of the education authority or Board of Governors, will amend its school improvement plan to bring about any improvements that the inspection team have discussed with senior leaders and representatives from the education authority or Board of Governors.
Where appropriate, we will carry out a further inspection to support staff in making improvements or to gather information about good practice.
The term 'parents' should be taken to include foster carers, residential care staff and carers who are relatives or friends.