Education Scotland
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 Catalog-Item Reuse

Primary school inspections
  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

​Education Scotland aims to promote improvement in primary schools and successful innovation that enhances learners' experiences.

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

We will evaluate how well a school or early learning and childcare establishment 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 school? (Fourth edition)' and/or '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 with regard to early years and childcare setting inspections, including “stand-alone” centres and nursery classes in primary schools.

There may be a care inspector as part of the inspection teams for nursery classes in primary schools. The arrangements for working together enhances efficiency and joint-working and aims to streamline the paperwork we request from providers.

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 children. 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.

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 approximately 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. 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 primary schools

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

PDF file: Primary Headteacher Briefing Note - March 2017 (334 KB)

School or establishment self-evaluation pro-forma

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.

A blank self-evaluation summary form is shown below.

Word file: Brief self-evaluation summary form - primary (155 KB)

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

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 survey

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 learners

The link to the online survey for learners should be shared with all learners in P4 and above. If you don’t already have existing arrangements in place for learners to complete the survey you should consider setting aside class time. Please make sure that learners have privacy to complete the questionnaires. You should reassure learners that once they have completed the survey, no-one in the school will see their answers. Inspectors will not tell anyone about what a learner has written unless they are worried about the learner’s safety. In that case they will talk to the learner and pass it on to someone who can help. Where required, those learners with additional support needs should be helped to complete the survey.

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 primary 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 primary school and, where relevant, a nursery class.

What happens in the inspection of your child’s primary school and nursery class?

Your child’s primary school/nursery class 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/nursery class and its children’s needs. The inspection will be carried out by a small team of inspectors, Associate Assessors (AA) and a Lay Member (LM) working for Education Scotland. In very small schools, one HMI will inspect the school.
Where there is a nursery class, it will 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 and nursery do well and where they need 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 our own inspectors 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/nursery playrooms, observe learning, 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.
  • We may work with your child as part of a small group or in a classroom/playroom.

After the inspection

We will publish a letter for parents on our website and share it with the education authority or Board of Governors, and where appropriate to the Chair of the Parent Council. We will also publish a document called the Summarised Inspection Findings which provides some detail supporting the evaluations made by inspectors.

If necessary, the 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, we will carry out a continued engagement visit to support staff in making improvements or to 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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