Education Scotland
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 Catalog-Item Reuse

Early learning and childcare inspections
  1. Arrangements for inspecting schools/ELC settings
  2. Being ready for inspection
  3. Briefing for headteachers/managers of ELC
  4. Guidance on issuing pre-inspection questionnaires
  5. Briefing for parents

1. Arrangements for inspecting schools/ELC settings

​Education Scotland aims to promote improvement in early learning and childcare settings and successful innovation that enhances childrens' experiences.

Our inspectors focus on the quality of children's learning and achievement. We have a particular interest in how the establishment is developing children's skills and understanding in literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing.

We will evaluate how well an early learning and childcare settings is performing in a range of key areas. To support us to do this we will use a few Quality Indicators from 'How Good Is our Early Learning and Childcare'. You can find out more about the Quality Indicators we will use in this letter from Bill Maxwell CEO or Education Scotland, which outlines the new approaches to inspections.

PDF file: Changes to Education Scotland inspections in August 2016 (105 KB)

Partnership working with the Care Inspectorate

We sometimes work with the Care Inspectorate in “stand-alone” centres.

There may be a care inspector as part of the inspection team for 'stand-alone' centres. The arrangements for working together enhances efficiency and joint-working and aims to streamline the paperwork we request from providers.

Children and Young People (Scotland) Act: Early Learning and Childcare

Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate will work together to support the development and expansion of early learning and childcare.

For 2016/17 we will continue with our current programmes of both individual and shared inspection and evaluation of services for children aged three to school age. In relation to the new entitlement for specified groups of two-year-olds to early learning and childcare, our shared activities will focus on building capacity in partnership with the local authorities and organisations such as the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), the Scottish Pre-school Play Association (SPPA) and the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA), as well as providers themselves. Our collective aim is to assist in ensuring that the increased provision will be of a high quality, with the focus on achieving the best possible outcomes for children, and that commissioners and providers are committed to delivering flexible choices for parents. The Care Inspectorate will continue to inspect all daycare and childminding services for children in line with current legislation. 

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 to show that they know themselves inside and out and that they are using self-evaluation to focus on improving all the achievements of children 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 we 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: ELCC Brief self-evaluation summary form (258 KB)

This completed form will act as the basis of discussions with the team on the first day of the inspection, including the selection of ‘areas for focused attention’, which the inspection team will consider as part of the inspection.

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 children 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 How good is our early learning and childcare as part of your self-evaluation. You probably also use the six-point graded scale. Your own evaluations against the six- point scale will be helpful to inspectors.

How good is our early learning and childcare?

The Child at the Centre has now been replaced with a fully revised and updated framework entitled 'How good is our early learning and childcare?'. This framework has been developed to support all practitioners across the 0-5 sector in improving their practice to provide best quality experiences for all babies, toddlers and children. The new framework is an online resource, which will allow regular updates to be made and shared quickly and efficiently with all practitioners.

You can download 'How good is our early learning and childcare?' from the new National Improvement Hub.

3. Briefing for headteachers/managers of ELC

​By now, you will be aware that an inspector or inspection team will soon visit your establishment. The team is looking forward to working with you and your colleagues. Inspection is about improvement. To this end, we will engage in professional dialogue throughout the inspection that will be mutually beneficial.

Your inspection administrator will be in touch very soon to confirm that you have received all the materials you will need and to check if you have any immediate questions. This briefing note and materials below have been designed to help you to prepare for the visit, and to outline the kinds of activities which will take place during the inspection.

Briefing note for headteachers/heads of early learning and childcare settings

This briefing note aims to help staff to understand the ELC inspection process.

PDF file: Headteacher/manager of early learning and childcare setting briefing note (317 KB)

Self-evaluation pro-forma

An inspection begins with a scoping meeting which builds on the school or centre's self-evaluation. It will focus on how self-evaluation is leading to improvement and the evidence the school or centre provides in the self-evaluation summary form.

Word file: ELCC Brief self-evaluation summary form (258 KB)

You should refer to Appendix 2 of the headteacher briefing note 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.

The Managing Inspector (MI) and/or delegated team member will discuss the pro-forma information provided with relevant staff during the inspection/review to add comments/evaluations as relevant.

Word file: Safeguarding / child protection pro-forma 2016 (206 KB)

4. Guidance on issuing pre-inspection questionnaires

​Headteacher guidance on issuing pre-inspection questionnaires

The notification package from HM Inspectors contains the range of pre-inspection questionnaires to be completed by all teachers and other staff who work directly with children and young people and staff not directly involved in teaching pupils, eg office staff, and a random sample of parents and pupils.

Parental questionnaires

Pre-school centres and primary schools with a nursery class

The notification package contains enough pre-school parent questionnaires for all families. Please distribute to all families as soon as possible. If you require additional questionnaires please contact your Inspection Administrator.

Special school/unit/class(es)

All families of children in a special school/class(es)/unit should receive a parental questionnaire. Please distribute to all families as soon as possible. If you require additional questionnaires please contact your Inspection Administrator.

How the number of parental questionnaires is calculated

The number is decided as follows.

​Size of school roll

Sample size

​100 and less​All
​101 - 200​Up to a maximum of 120
​201 - 300​150
​301 - 400​175
​401 - 500​200
​501 - 999​250
​1000+​25% of school roll

How a random sample is achieved

The selection should be obtained by splitting the number of questionnaires proportionately across the stages depending on the total number of pupils at each stage.

If the school has relatively few ethnic groups represented in the school then steps should first be taken to ensure that parents of these pupils receive a questionnaire.

Thereafter, pick the names from the alphabetical class list, starting at the top of each list, missing out pupils at regular intervals until the required total is reached. For example, where 10 are to be sampled from a class of 30, select every third name.

In order to avoid a pupil's family receiving more than one questionnaire, arrangements should be made to first identify families of senior pupils which will get a questionnaire. Thereafter the names of siblings should be removed from the lower stages alphabetical class list(s) and the same method applied to identify families to receive a questionnaire.

5. Briefing for parents

​This section aims to help parents* to understand the inspection of an ELC setting.

What happens in an inspection of your child’s early learning and childcare (ELC) setting or nursery class?

Your child’s ELC setting is to have an inspection to find out how well your child is being educated and looked after. HM Inspectors will take account of the type and nature of the ELC setting and its children’s needs.

The inspection publication letter will highlight what the ELC setting 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 ELC setting provider to comply with relevant Care Inspectorate (Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland) legislation.

Before the inspection

You will receive a confidential questionnaire so that we can see what you think about the ELC setting. We will also ask staff to complete a confidential questionnaire.

All the replies we receive will be treated in confidence unless they raise issues about the safety and welfare of children or staff in the ELC setting. Please note that unsigned replies will not be taken into consideration.

In large ELC settings, the team will include a second team member who may be a Care Inspectorate inspector.

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 playrooms, observe activities, and talk to staff and children about their learning.
  • We may spend some time looking at your child’s work and reading his/her reports of progress and learning experiences.
  • We may engage with your child as part of a small group or in the playroom.

After the inspection

We will send the education authority and ELC setting a letter for parents together with a document called 'additional inspection evidence' which details the questionnaire responses given to the ELC setting and details of the questionnaire responses. We will also publish a document called the Summarised Inspection Findings which provides some detail supporting the evaluations made by inspectors. These will also be published on our website in the inspection and review report section.

If necessary, the ELC setting, with the support of the education authority, will amend its development plan to bring about any improvements that the letter says are needed.

In some cases, we will carry out a further engagement visit to support the ELC setting to make improvements.

*The term 'parents' should be taken to include foster carers, residential care staff and carers who are relatives or friends.

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