How does inspection and review support improvement?

​​​​​In Scotland, inspection and review is a crucial tool which supports improvement, as well as providing assurance and public accountability.

The Scottish approach to bringing about improvement is based on providers evaluating their own work and then taking action to plan for any necessary improvements.

The quality frameworks are designed to enable providers to undertake self-evaluation using the same framework which inspectors use to evaluate the quality of education provision as part of inspection and review. These quality frameworks are developed in partnership with stakeholders.

Inspection and review places an importance on exploring the extent to which an establishment/service has the ability to self-evaluate and drive its own improvement. We start an inspection by understanding the provider’s self-evaluation. We work with staff to identify key themes from self-evaluation which will help to focus inspection or review activity. Where a provider has identified a priority for improvement and has taken action to make improvements, inspectors recognise this thus verifying the provider’s own evaluation and supporting their journey of continuous improvement. At the end of the inspection, we report on the provider’s capacity for continuous improvement.

We give priority to supporting improvement through constructive professional dialogue. This is one of our most valuable tools for supporting improvement when engaging with staff during inspections. Provider’s value the dialogue with inspectors because the discussions can be strongly contextualised to particular local concerns. They also value the knowledge HM Inspectors have of quality frameworks, national policy and practice observed across the country. This enhances the credibility of the interaction.& Through professional dialogue, inspectors signpost effective practice from which others can learn and offer advice and guidance about improved ways of working. This promotes improvement and innovation.

We use the evidence gathered through inspection to promote improvement at a local and national level. At a local level inspection teams gather evidence and evaluate what is working well and areas for improvement in order to promote improvement within a service / establishment.

The scope of our inspection activities at a local level gives us a unique evidence base drawn from observing practice at first hand across the country. This evidence base enables us to draw conclusions about strengths and aspects for development at a national level.

We use findings from inspection to provide Scottish Ministers and their officials with evidence-based advice to help inform policy development and encourage improvement throughout the Scottish education system. We focus on children’s and young people’s learning and outcomes for learners. Through observing practice at first hand, inspectors comment on the implementation of national policy and programmes and the impact of implementation on children’s and young people’s learning, success and achievement. In the school sector, the evidence and evaluation grades feed directly into the evidence base for the National Improvement Framework (NIF). This in turn informs the national improvement activity the Scottish Government and partners take forward each year.

We promote collective engagement in learning and improvement through publishing our inspection findings. This enables us to feed back the evidence we have gathered of strengths and areas for development so that, as well as giving assurance, providers use our findings to inform their next steps to secure further improvement.

Our approaches to inspection encourage providers to share learning and build on each other’s successes. We achieve this by sharing outstanding and highly effective practice identified through inspection more widely so that others can learn from it. This supports a culture of collaboration within and across services/establishments to drive innovation and collective improvement.

Where we identify that the quality of education is not good enough and the approach to improvement at a local level is not working we undertake further inspection activity to support providers address areas for improvement and help secure better outcomes for learners. We report on the progress a service / establishment has made to address areas for improvement.

Our approaches to inspection make use of the collective expertise within Scottish education to promote improvement. HM Inspectors do not always carry out inspections on their own. We value the knowledge, skills and expertise of current practitioners from across sectors and services, so in almost all inspection teams we are joined by practitioners from the relevant sector. These practitioners are known as Associate Assessors or Professional Associates.

​Associates Assessors also benefit from being part of inspection teams. They develop skills, knowledge and understanding from undertaking training with and working alongside inspectors. They gather valuable experience of evaluating practice using quality frameworks and observing practice in other parts of Scotland. This helps to build their capacity in evaluating quality and improvement in education so that they can use it to maximum impact to support their journey of continuous improvement in their own establishment / service and locality.