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
Through inspection, HM Inspectors aim to promote improvement and successful innovation that enhances learners' experiences as well as providing assurance to stakeholders. Our inspectors focus on the quality of children's learning and outcomes and the school’s capacity to improve.
We will evaluate how well a school or early learning and childcare establishment is performing in a range of key areas. We use quality indicators (QIs) from 'How good is our school? (4th edition)' and, where there is an early learning and childcare (ELC) setting, '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
Some inspections are undertaken by both the Care Inspectorate and Education. Where a shared inspection takes place, this will be carried out by inspectors from both the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland. Where a shared inspection takes place in your nursery class, the evaluations of both organisations will be included in the inspection report and the final letter to parents.
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 primary schools and nursery classes to show that they know themselves well. It also provides an opportunity to show how they are using self-evaluation to focus on improving outcomes for all children. Before the inspection, the headteacher is asked to complete, a brief self-evaluation summary form in consultation with staff and the education authority. At the start of the inspection senior leaders are invited to use this to brief the inspection team. Senior leaders should set aside approximately one hour for an introductory meeting on the first day of the inspection for this purpose. It is important that in this discussion, senior leaders focus on the outcomes for all learners. This meeting will be the start of an ongoing dialogue with the inspection team about the establishment’s performance and approaches to improvement.
Improvement through self-evaluation
Senior leaders and staff are most likely to use 'How good is our school? (4th edition)' and/or 'How good is our early learning and childcare?' to support self‑evaluation. This document outlines the six-point scale used to grade quality indicators (QIs). In the schools on self-evaluation summary paper, we ask that they indicate their own grading of the relevant QIs.
3. Briefing for headteachers
Throughout the inspection, we shall engage senior leaders and staff in professional dialogue with the aim of supporting improvement.
The advice and support materials below have been designed to help senior leaders and staff 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 staff 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.
Child protection and safeguarding self-evaluation form
This form is used to record information about child protection and safeguarding. Head of settings are asked to return this with the pre-inspection documents. The Managing Inspector (MI) and/or delegated team member will discuss the information provided in this form with relevant staff during the inspection.
4. Guidance on issuing pre-inspection questionnaires
Headteacher 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 school/nursery classes. To gather the views of learners, parents, staff and partners, we ask the headteacher to direct stakeholders to a pre-inspection questionnaire. A sample of the questionnaire can be found below. HM Inspectors will make a Gaelic version of all questionnaires available when we inspect Gaelic Medium Education. We welcome responses in Gaelic.
Within the email notifying the headteacher of the inspection, there are links to online surveys which hold the pre-inspection questionnaires. The questionnaires are issued to the following groups of people.
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 classes nor children in P1 to P3. Where required, those learners with additional support needs should be helped to complete the survey.
School staff should ensure that learners have privacy to complete the questionnaires. Learners should be reassured that once they have completed the survey, no-one in the school will see their answers. All responses will be treated in confidence unless they raise issues about the safety or health and wellbeing of children or staff in the school. In such instances, inspectors will talk to the learner and pass their concern to someone who can help.
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 nursery class being inspected. They also have the option to complete a single questionnaire for a family.
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 will contact those parents to invite them to a meeting with inspectors.
All staff should receive the link the to the pre-inspection questionnaire. We have created pre-inspection questionnaires for the following broad groupings. A survey link will be provided for each staffing group as shown below:
- 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/ELC setting. This may include community learning and development services, colleges, universities, employers, third sector, community organisations and libraries. All those who work in partnership with the school and/or nursery class should be sent the link to the pre‑inspection questionnaire.
Distributing the links
Headteachers should use their established methods of communication to inform stakeholders of the inspection. They should direct them to the information that is available from our website and provide the appropriate link to the pre-inspection questionnaire. When sharing these links, include the date the survey will close.
Headteachers are best placed to know the most effective ways of communicating and engaging with their stakeholders to ensure that as many as possible can provide their views about the school or nursery class. We have found that some schools and nursery classes 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 a parents’ evening.
We recognise that schools and nursery classes will want to encourage as many of their stakeholders as possible to complete the pre-inspection questionnaire. To aid with this, the Inspection Administrator can provide headteachers with a regular update on responses rates. Where, for example, the response rates are lower for a particular stakeholder group headteachers can then 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 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 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 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 headteachers 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 headteachers 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
Gathering the views of parents is important to us during the inspection of a school or ELC setting*. We consider these views carefully as part of the evidence during the inspection. We will want to know what the Chairperson of the Parent Council, thinks about the school and how it is doing. A member of the inspection team will arrange to meet with the Chairperson of the Parent Council, as well as other parents, during the inspection. Parents of Gaelic Medium Education should be invited to meet with the inspection team when this specialist provision is offered.
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.
This section aims to help parents to understand the inspection of a primary school and, where relevant, an 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 nursery class 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 pre-inspection questionnaire by the school or setting which provides information about the survey and how to complete it.
Information given to us will only be seen by the inspection team. All responses 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. The Inspection Administrator will contact parents to make the necessary arrangements.
During the inspection
An inspection team will visit your child’s school or nursery class. 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 an nursery class, it will be inspected by HM Inspectors . Where a shared inspection takes place HM Inspectors will be joined by Care Inspectors. Provisions for Gaelic Medium Education will have specialist inspectors for Gaelic on the team. During the visit the inspection team:
- will visit classrooms/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; and
- may work with your child as part of a small group or in a classroom/playroom.
After the inspection
- At the end of the inspection or review, HM Inspectors will share the findings with the school and agree any follow up activity.
- The inspection team will publish a letter for parents on the Education Scotland website.
- Summarised Inspection Findings and the analysis of the pre-inspection questionnaire responses are also published on Education Scotland’s website.
- Where HM Inspectors are confident in the work of the school and that the school has the capacity to continue to improve, no more visits are made in connection with the inspection.
- In some cases, HM Inspectors will carry out a further inspection to support staff in making improvements.
The term 'parents' should be taken to include foster carers, residential care staff and carers who are relatives or friends.