Secondary 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 secondary schools and successful innovation that enhances learners' experiences.
Our inspectors focus on the quality of young people's learning and achievements.
We will evaluate how well a school 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).
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.
2. Being ready for inspection
Briefing the inspection team on the establishment’s view of its improvement through self-evaluation
During inspection schools have the opportunity to show that they know themselves well and that they are using self-evaluation to focus on improving outcomes for all young people. When a school's self-evaluation evidence is robust, we can use it as part of the inspection evidence. It can also help identify innovative practice that Education Scotland may wish to look at in more detail after the inspection has been completed.
Before the inspection, you are asked to complete 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 approaches to improvement through self-evaluation. You should set aside approximately one hour for an introductory meeting on the first day of the inspection. It is important that you focus on the 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 approaches to improvement.
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 is improving and show us how you know
- identify the key sources of evidence which underpin your knowledge of your school's performance and improvement, and make these available
- show how you prioritise areas for improvement.
Evaluating your establishment
You will most likely be using How good is our school? (4th edition) to support you with self-evaluation. This document outlines the six-point scale used for evaluation. We ask that you provide your school's own evaluations against the six-point scale in the self-evaluation pro-forma that you are requested to complete prior to the inspection.
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 secondary schools
This briefing note aims to help staff to understand the secondary school inspection process.
Self-evaluation summary form
An inspection begins with an introductory meeting which builds on the school's self-evaluation. It will use the evidence the school or provides in the self evaluation summary form as a focus.
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Child protection and safeguarding self evaluation form
This form is used to record information about safeguarding. Please hand your completed form to the Managing Inspector (MI) on the first day of the inspection. Do not send a completed version prior to the inspection team arriving at your school.
The MI and/or delegated team member will discuss the information provided with relevant staff during the inspection to add comments/evaluations as relevant.
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. To gather the views of young people, parents, staff and partners we ask the headteacher to direct stakeholders to a pre-inspection questionnaire. 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 in your school should be sent the survey link.
If you don't already have existing arrangements in place for learners to complete questionnaires digitally you should consider how best this can be achieved in the context of your school. Please make sure that learners have privacy to complete the questionnaires. You should reassure young people 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 have concerns about the learner's health and wellbeing. In such instances inspectors will talk with the school. 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 being inspected. The pre-inspection questionnaire asks parents to indicate if they shall be providing one response only or if they are providing one response for each of their children who attend the school.
As part of the inspection, members 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 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.
We define partners within How good is our school? (4th edition) to include all individuals or organisations that deliver learning and contribute to the life and work of the school. 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 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. We have found that some schools have, in addition to sending the links digitally, provided opportunities to parents to 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 schools will want to encourage as many of their stakeholders as possible to complete the pre-inspection questionnaire. To support this, the IA can provide you with a regular update on responses rates. Where, for example, the response levels are lower for a particular stakeholder group you may wish to 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. Gathering the views of parents is important to us during the inspection of a school. 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. This briefing note aims to help the chairperson of the parent council understand the inspection process of a secondary school.
Briefing for parents
This section aims to help parents to understand the inspection of a secondary school.
What happens in the inspection of your child’s secondary school?
Your child’s secondary school is to have an inspection to find out how well your child is being educated and looked after. HM Inspectors (HMI) will take account of the type and nature of the school and its young people's needs. The inspection will be carried out by a team which may comprise of inspectors, Associate Assessors (AA), Assistant Inspectors, a Health and Nutrition Inspector and a Lay Member (LM) working for Education Scotland.
The inspection published letter will highlight what the school does well and where it needs to improve.
Before the inspection
You will receive a pre-inspection questionnaire so that we can find out what you think about the school. Staff, partners and young people will also be invited to complete a questionnaire.
All responses will be treated in confidence unless they raise concerns about the wellbeing of young people or staff in the school.
Information given to us will be seen only by the inspection team. We will not tell anyone else where our information came from unless the wellbeing of a person is considered to be at risk.
During the inspection
- We will visit classrooms, observe learning, and talk to staff and young people about their learning.
- We may spend some time looking at your child’s work and reading his/her reports.
- We may work with your child as part of a small group or in a classroom.
After the inspection
We will publish a letter for parents on our website and send an electronic copy to 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 secondary 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 letter says are needed.
In some cases, we will carry out a further inspection to support the school to make improvements or to gather information about any innovative practice identified through the inspection.
The term 'parents' should be taken to include foster carers, residential care staff and carers who are relatives or friends.