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

Residential special school inspections
  1. Introduction
  2. Being ready for inspection
  3. Briefing notes for headteachers and staff
  4. Guidance on issuing pre-inspection questionnaires
  5. Briefings for parents and parent councils

​1. Introduction

Inspections of residential special schools and secure care accommodation services

In the integrated inspections, HM Inspectors work alongside the Care Inspectorate in inspecting schools. In addition, a lay member will assist in the inspection. This form of inspection takes place approximately every four years. Integrated inspections evaluate the quality of care and education at the school/centre. We describe the approaches taken to ensure learning, care and protection for children and young people. We describe how children and young people benefit from learning there. Then we look at the ways in which the school/centre helps them to learn and achieve within and outwith the school and in the residences. We describe how well the school/centre works with other groups in including parents, local authorities who place children there and services which support young people. We also comment on how well staff and young people work together and how they go about improving the school. The report describes the quality of relationships in the school, how well young people are cared for and treated and how much is expected of them in all aspects of school or centre’s life. In addition, Education Scotland focus on how well the school/centre’s aims help staff to deliver high quality learning, and the impact of leadership on the school’s success in achieving these aims.

The integrated inspection team will focus on five National Performance Framework quality indicators and the Care Inspectorate will contribute breadth to these through a focus on education through care. Members of the integrated inspection team will share findings with the school’s senior management, including external managers and other relevant staff during the inspection.

Arrangements for inspecting schools in Scotland

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.

Under the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001, Education Scotland work alongside the Care Inspectorate in the registration and inspection of care services which incorporate an educational element. For older children, this includes residential special schools and secure care services. This form of inspection takes place approximately every four years. The purposes of Education Scotland and Care Inspectorate joint inspections are to provide assurance to stakeholders and to promote improvement and successful innovation that enhances the quality of care and learners’ experiences and leads to better outcomes for young people.

In inspections of residential special schools and secure care services, school-based inspection activity will normally last no more than four days and could be less. The period of notification of inspections will be three and a half weeks. The timescale from notification to publication will be no more than 12 working weeks.

The integrated inspection team will focus on five NPF QIs. Officers from the Care Inspectorate will contribute breadth to these through a focus on education through care. Where a residential special school or secure care service is managed by a local authority, its evaluations will be included within the NPF.

In addition to evaluations of QIs, inspection reports may include recommendations and requirements to improve the quality of care and education as deemed appropriate by the Care Inspectorate.

The School Education (Ministerial Powers and Independent Schools) (Scotland) Act 2004 allows Ministers to impose conditions on independent schools to stop them becoming objectionable. Following inspections of all independent schools, Education Scotland must advise the Registrar for Independent Schools about the quality of care and education found there to allow appropriate action to be taken where this is considered necessary.

After the inspection, Education Scotland will write a brief report for parents, placing authorities and other interested members of the community and send this to the service and its governing body for comment within two weeks of the inspection. The Managing Inspector will let the school or service know about any continuing engagement activities should these be required.

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

2. Being ready for inspection

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

Our new inspections provide the opportunity for pre-school centres 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 (no more than three sides of A4) self-evaluation summary form. In it, you are asked to set out the key strengths and areas for development/next steps in the context of the following three key questions.

  • How well do children/young people learn and achieve?
  • How well does the school support children/young people to develop and learn?
  • How well does the school improve the quality of its work?

This completed form will act as the basis of discussions with the team on Monday afternoon, 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 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 may well use How good is our school? The Journey to Excellence: Part 3 or The Child at the Centre as part of school/pre-school self-evaluation. You probably also use the six point graded scale. Because the inspection team is required to make independent evaluations using five of the quality indicators, your own evaluations against the six point scale are not used in the inspection process and are not required by the inspection team.

Indeed, the inspection is not a process of ‘validation’ of grades awarded through self-evaluation. The inspection will provide an overall evaluation of the quality of the school’s provision. The first two key questions (above) will be answered clearly in the report and will be followed by text which explains our answers. For the third question, 'How well does the school improve the quality of its work?, we will provide an expression of confidence. We will also indicate any continuing engagement activities we might have with the school. 

Inspection Advice Note

This advice note sets out an adjustment in expectations, in line with national implementation expectations, for our evaluation of QI 5.1 (Curriculum) and QI 5.9 (Improvement through self-evaluation).

PDF file: Education Scotland Inspection Advice Note (2015-16) (298 KB)

Fourth edition of How good is our school?

The fourth edition of How good is our school? was published by Education Scotland on 24th September 2015. Practitioners are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the new edition.

3. Briefing notes for headteachers and staff

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 residential special schools

This briefing note aims to help staff to understand the inspection process of residential special schools and secure care services.

PDF file: Residential special schools headteacher briefing note - March 2017 (339 KB)

Safeguarding/child protection pro-forma

This pro-forma is used to record information about safeguarding. Please complete and send this pro-forma (electronically if possible) to your inspection administrator prior to the inspection. 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 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 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 residential 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 residential special school.

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

Your child’s school/centre 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’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.

The inspection published letter will highlight what the school/centre does well and where they need to improve.

It answers the following questions:

  • How well do children and young people learn and achieve?
  • Does the school/centre have a clear sense of direction?
  • How well do staff work with others to support children and young people’s learning?
  • Are staff, children and young people actively involved in their community?
  • Does the school have high expectations of all children and young people?

Before the inspection

  • You may receive a confidential questionnaire so that we can see what you think about the school.
  • We will also ask staff to complete a questionnaire. All replies will be treated in confidence unless they raise issues about the safety and welfare of children or staff in the school.
  • Using information from the questionnaires, we will contact a small group of parents who will be invited to meet with a member of the inspection team.
  • 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, observe learning, and talk to staff and communicate with staff and young people about their care and learning.
  • We may spend some time looking at your child’s work and reading his/her reports.

After the inspection

  • We will publish a letter for parents on our website and send an electronic copy to the education authority or Board of Governors, and where appropriate to the chairperson 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.

When will another inspection take place?

Education Scotland normally inspects each residential special school in Scotland approximately every four years.

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