GP0|#dcac3722-8b64-46fe-a211-4cb5d2b99d62;L0|#0dcac3722-8b64-46fe-a211-4cb5d2b99d62|About inspections and reviews;GTSet|#be6d6ed0-609d-4723-b17a-bc81cbe67c93;GPP|#188671b5-c91e-4579-ab40-31baa90e9d45;GPP|#0c1043f2-edf4-4207-b4ee-57073d324c98;GPP|#5ea2f055-709a-49aa-816c-bc466c16e12f

 Catalog-Item Reuse

Arrangements for inspecting special schools
  1. Arrangements for inspecting schools
  2. Being ready for inspection
  3. Briefing for headteachers
  4. Guidance on issuing pre-inspection questionnaires
  5. Briefings for parents and parent councils

1. Arrangements for inspecting schools

​The school inspection framework document, published on 11 August 2011, covers a range of sectors, including stand alone pre-school centres, primary including those with nursery classes, secondary including community learning and development (CLD) as part of secondary, and aspects of transition, special, independent and all-through schools. It also has implications for continuing engagement.

The special school inspection programme for education authority day special schools covers over 200 special schools across the country. In addition, we inspect a wide range of special units linked to pre-school, primary and secondary provision.

Over the past 20 years, the numbers of special schools have slightly increased while the number of children and young people attending them continue to decrease. Special schools are now likely to provide for children with more complex needs, including autism spectrum disorders and barriers to learning arising from social and emotional factors. Some education authorities operate different forms of separate provision to meet needs such as schools and units for autism or behavioural needs or complex needs. In inspecting special schools, we operate in the context of primary and secondary inspection models to ensure coherence over school inspections. We have guidelines for units either providing a service to the authority or based within a primary or secondary school.

PDF file: Arrangements for inspecting schools in Scotland (280 KB)

Involvement in try-outs

You may be aware that following extensive consultation, Education Scotland is planning to try out new approaches to inspection in a small number of schools, and other establishments and services in the course of academic session 2015-16.

If your school, establishment or service is involved in one of the “try-outs”, you will be notified in due course. Please assume the inspection of your school, establishment or service will be carried out using the current model as detailed on these pages unless you are otherwise notified. 

School inspection reports

Inspection reports for schools and early learning and childcare settings in Scotland.

2. Being ready for inspection

​Video: Preparing for inspection


Briefing the inspection team on the establishment’s view of its improvement through self-evaluation

Our new 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 young people in line with Curriculum for Excellence. 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. An example of such a blank self-evaluation summary form is shown below.

Word file: Brief self-evaluation summary form (292 KB)

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 up to 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. This dialogue should provide the inspection team with a clear sense of your journey – where you’ve come from, where you are now and where you want to get to. Time is short and you will need to stick to the ‘high ground’.

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 the fourth edition of How good is our school? or How good is our early learning and childcare? as part of school/pre-school self-evaluation. You probably also use the six point graded scale. Your own evaluations against the six point scale will be helpful to inspectors.

3. Briefing for headteachers

By now, you will be aware that an inspection team will soon visit your school. The team is looking forward to working with you and your colleagues. Throughout the inspection, we shall engage you and your staff in professional dialogue with the aim of supporting improvement.

Your inspection administrator (IA) will be in touch very soon to confirm that your inspection box has all the paperwork you will need and to check if you have any immediate questions. This briefing note has 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 special schools

This briefing note aims to help staff to understand the inspection process of a special school.

PDF file: Special school headteacher briefing note - March 2017 (339 KB)

Self-evaluation exemplars: 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.

PDF file: Brief self-evaluation summary form (292 KB)

You should refer to Appendix 2 of the relevant headteacher briefing for a copy of the self-evaluation form and guidance on completing it.

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.

Word file: Safeguarding / child protection pro-forma 2015 (139 KB)

4. Guidance on issuing pre-inspection questionnaires

We are piloting the use of an online survey tool to gather the views of stakeholders in advance of inspection activity. Methods for sharing the survey links include: using internal email for staff; adding a link to the survey on to your website (remember to remove when the survey has closed) for parents and partners; include the information within a group call or newsletter for parents, staff and partners; connect with learners through Glow.

Headteacher guidance on issuing pre-inspection questionnaires

The notification you receive via email, will contain information about the inspection, links to key resources on our website and links to the online survey tool. The surveys should be completed by learners, staff, parents and partners. Each survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. When sharing the link to the surveys it is important to include the date the survey will close.

Survey of staff

The link should be shared with all staff. The categories and descriptions are below.

  • Early learning and childcare staff
  • Teacher/pupil support in a primary, secondary or special school: those staff involved in teaching learners or providing learner/learning support. For example, a teacher, promoted teacher, classroom assistant, learning support assistant, ASN assistant, peripatetic music.
  • School support: those staff supporting the day to day operation of the school e.g. office staff, facilities staff, a technician.

Survey of parents

All parents should receive the link to the survey. Parents may complete the survey for one child or for each of their children.

Survey of partners

Those who work in partnership with your school should be sent the link to the survey. Partners may include colleges, local businesses, Ministers, voluntary and charity organisations.

The inspection team will have an analysis of the survey response in advance of inspection activity. We may give you a summary of the results of all the questionnaires we receive. We may also use the information for statistical purposes but no individual responses will be identified. At the end of the survey respondents are invited to give us more information about any of their answers or provide us with any other comments. The information gathered through the survey will remain confidential, unless they raise specific issues, for example in relation to safeguarding. In these circumstances, they would be shared with the school and appropriate agencies.

Responses will be added to the BOS online survey tool, developed by the University of Bristol. Responses will be stored 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 the 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 or pre-school centre*. 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 special school.

*Parent councils do not have a legislative role in pre-school education. However, parent council members will be interested in all children/young people and all aspects of the work of the school.

PDF file: Support and advice for the chairperson of the parent council (204 KB)

Briefing for parents

This section aims to help parents to understand the inspection of a special school.

What happens in the inspection of your child’s special school?

Your child’s special 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 children and young people's needs. The inspection will be carried out by a team of inspectors, Associate Assessors (AA), and a Lay Member (LM) working for Education Scotland.

Where there is a nursery class, it may be inspected by an inspector from Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate or by one inspector on behalf of both organisations.

The inspection published letter will highlight what the school does well and where it needs to improve.

Any requirements made as a result of the inspection refer to action which must be taken by the pre-school provider to comply with relevant legislation.

Before the inspection

We are piloting the use of an online survey tool to gather the views of learners, staff, partners and parents. You will be sent a link to the survey 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 and welfare 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 survey. We will contact a small group of parents to make arrangements.

An inspection team can be made up from inspectors from Education Scotland 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

  • We will visit classrooms, observe learning, and talk to staff, children 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

  • The inspection team will publish a letter for parents on the Education Scotland website and share it with the education authority or Board of Governors, and where appropriate to the chairperson of the parent council.
  • If necessary, the special school, with the support of the education authority or Board of Governors, will amend its development plan to bring about any improvements that the letter says are needed.
  • In some cases, HM Inspectors will carry out a continued engagement visit to support staff in making improvements or 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.

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