What do we focus on during inspection and review?

​​​​​Learners and users are at the heart of inspection and review and we give priority to evaluating the experiences of all learners and users.

HM Inspectors observe learning first hand across the country and make professional judgements about the quality of children’s and young people’s learning, and the outcomes which they achieve. In making professional judgements HM Inspectors gather a range of evidence. This evidence comes from quantitative data and information, the views of people involved with the organisation such as staff, learners, parents, partners and from what inspectors observe.

It is also very important to us that we hear the voice of parents, stakeholders, employers and learners. We do this in a number of ways, including offering guidance and the opportunity to provide comment and feedback through questionnaires. Inspectors often meet with representatives of these groups during inspection.

During inspection and review HM Inspectors use the Quality Indicators (QIs) contained within the sector-specific quality frameworks to evaluate and report on the quality of education being provided. We select QIs, themes from QIs or look at themes across QIs. We use the QIs to identify and report what is working well; what needs to improve and examples of highly effective and sector leading practice. We let providers know which QIs or themes within QIs we will be evaluating in advance.

The Scottish approach to bringing about improvement is based on the idea that establishments and services will evaluate their own work and then take action to share effective practice and plan for any necessary improvements. We place an importance on exploring the extent to which an establishment or service has the ability to self-evaluate and drive its own improvement.

We take into account the context and nature of the establishment and service, its learners and their needs. We focus on how an establishment or service is performing, the impact it is having on improving outcomes for children and young people and the capacity for continuous improvement.

As part of the inspection and review process we comment on the impact that the implementation of national policy and guidance is having in establishments and services. This includes a focus on the national imperative to continue to improve attainment for all whilst closing the gap in attainment and achievement between the most disadvantaged children and their peers. There is a strengthened focus on the four key priorities identified in the National Improvement Framework​:

  • improvement in attainment, particularly in literacy and numeracy
  • closing the attainment gap between the most and least disadvantaged children
  • improvement in children and young people's health and wellbeing
  • improvement in employability skills and sustained, positive school leaver destinations for all young people.

During an inspection or review we may meet with learners, staff, communities and stakeholders of the establishment or service. We hear their views of the learning experience provided and we ask questions if we feel that we need to know more.​

Throughout the process, we engage in “professional dialogue" with practitioners from the sector. This means that we have discussions based around a shared agenda. We encourage providers to share their innovative and highly effective practice and suggest opportunities for further exploration. Some opportunities for professional dialogue are common to all inspections and reviews, while others will be responsive to the establishment or service. We aim to focus opportunities for professional dialogue where they can have maximum impact on supporting improvement.

Our inspections and reviews are always proportionate. This means that we only seek the evidence that we need. This also means that there will be times when teams report by 'exception', providing comments on some aspects where there are particular strengths or areas of weakness.

We carry out national thematic inspections and reviews each year. This helps us to draw conclusions about what is working well and what needs to improve in relation to specific aspects of education that are of particular interest or priority.​

At the end of the inspection or review, we share our findings with relevant parties and ​​​agree any follow up activity.


PDF file: Arrangements for inspecting schools​ (286 KB)