Tag Archives: inspection

QuISE – Sharing the privilege of what inspectors see⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

By Alastair Delaney, Director of Inspection

Being an HM Inspector is a massive privilege. Unlike anyone else, you get to see practice in classrooms, colleges, and communities across the length and breadth of Scotland.  It is sometimes humbling to see the huge efforts that educational professionals and others are making to secure the best outcomes for learners.  It is certainly uplifting and affirming to see excellent practice across sectors and communities.

But HM Inspectors also have a responsibility to the system to share what they see and to analyse and synthesise all the evidence to help everyone tackle the challenges they face. Our recent report, ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012 – 2016’ (QuISE) is an example of us sharing what we have seen – both the excellent practice and the consistent themes and challenges that the system is wrestling with.  QuISE does this by providing detailed comments for each sector, but then also bringing the evidence together to identify themes for the system as a whole.

The five key challenges and opportunities that the report identifies are a rallying call to focus on what will have the biggest impact. I hope that they have proven useful in your discussions in staff rooms, local authorities and elsewhere.

Of course, the knowledge Inspectors gather is used in the interim period between publication of major reports such as QuISE. We are constantly feeding this evidence and intelligence into policy makers, politicians and others so that they can take account of it in their work.

We are also exploring how we can make some of our analysis of particular themes or issues more readily available to all, for example by running short, focused evaluations of particular issues of interest to ensure that we can help the system improve. This is just one approach we are looking at and we’ll update you on our plans in due course.

In the meantime, I hope that the report has been useful and, more importantly, has helped you to reflect on your practice and be creative and innovative in responding to the issues and challenges you experience every day.

Gaelic Medium Education – self-improvement, attainment and leadership⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

By Joan Esson, HM Inspector and Lead Officer for inspection of Gaelic Medium Education

The recently published report, ‘Quality and Improvement in Scottish Education 2012-2016’ (QuISE) highlighted a number of key areas of strengths and aspects for improvement from 3-18 Gaelic Medium Education (GME) inspections. You can read the chapter relating to GME on our website.

It was a great privilege to review our inspection findings for GME and evidence how the sector is developing. The approaches that are used in GME are a very effective example of language learning in Scotland.  Children learn the language to a high level of fluency which enables them to access learning through Gaelic, while achieving expected attainment levels in all areas of the curriculum.

Overall, inspectors found that most children and young people in GME were making good progress in developing their fluency. By the senior phase, attainment in Gàidhlig as a subject is strong.  Interest in the role of Gaelic (Learners) as an additional language, and the development of GME in some areas of Scotland, is growing.

In this blog, I would like to consider three areas that should be given initial consideration in using the QuISE report as part of the improvement journey for GME.

  1. Being a self-improving GME provision

Education Scotland aims to support practitioners as they build capacity for improvement. The QuISE report presents an important source for practitioners’ use in self-evaluation. The chapters for early learning and childcare, primary and secondary, should be used along with the one on GME. Education Scotland’s Advice on Gaelic Education gives a strategic guide to what constitutes high-quality national practice, some of which now forms statutory Guidance. Taken together with self-evaluation frameworks, practitioners have a rich resource to enable an in-depth focus on Gaelic. Senior leaders, along with other practitioners, should take time to use these resources for self-evaluation. In future inspections, we would like to evidence improved leadership of GME, with Gaelic being at the heart of strategic planning and part of continuous improvement.      

2. Closing the attainment gap

An important outcome of GME is that children attain equally well, or better, than their peers in English medium education. This gives parents confidence in GME for which we need to have a relentless focus on high-quality attainment and progress. In our forthcoming inspections, we would like to see practitioners, and indeed the children and young people themselves, being clearer on their progress and how to improve further. To clarify expectations, teachers assisted us in designing Benchmarks for literacy and Gàidhlig. These need to be used in the joint planning of learning, teaching and assessment;  for monitoring and tracking of progress and in the moderation of standards.

At all times, practitioners have an important role in interacting skilfully with children, while modelling good immersion techniques to help children acquire the language. Practitioners’ skill in doing this impacts on children’s fluency. Playroom experiences are threaded together and given direction with a curriculum framework that promotes continuity and progression.

Education Scotland’s Advice on Gaelic Education (particularly chapter 7), coupled with Building the Ambition, (particularly chapters 6 and 7), present practitioners with effective pedagogy for early learning in GME. Building the Curriculum 2 details children’s natural disposition “to wonder, to be curious, to pose questions, to experiment, to suggest, to invent and to explain”. In the immersion playroom, practitioners will engage in short periods of activities that they will lead as part of children’s intended learning. At other times, children will be choosing what they play which they may initiate as they follow their interests, or be an experience planned by practitioners.

If we are to close the attainment gap in GME, we need to recognise the early gains from a strong total immersion experience as part of early learning and childcare. For this, children need to hear and absorb very fluent Gaelic across a range of play contexts.   Practitioners’ quality and frequent interactions are key drivers in helping children to acquire fluency as they foster learning which is creative, investigative and exploratory.

3. Improving the leadership of the GME curriculum

The QuISE  report highlighted that our strong primary GME provisions are clear on the correlation between immersion, fluency and impact on attainment.   At the secondary stages, there is still more to do to ensure young people have enough opportunities to learn through Gaelic. We recognise in the QuISE  report that there are challenges from shortages of Gaelic-speaking practitioners.  However, we ask for more of a solution-focused approach.  Our Advice on Gaelic Education  (particularly chapters 9-13) gives strategic direction to the development of the GME secondary curriculum.

In our forthcoming inspections, we would like to see much more prominence given to those learning in GME as a group for whom pathways need to be developed. It would be useful to continue to develop a shared understanding of how Curriculum for Excellence, with its emphasis on the totality of learning, may be maximised for GME. Speakers of Gaelic are a key driver in planning the curriculum. Could more of our Gaelic-speaking practitioners in schools be delivering some aspect of the curriculum in Gaelic?  Could they, for example, be encouraged to deliver a subject, club, universal support or an opportunity for achievement through Gaelic?  The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” chimes with the need to increase the role of partners in the GME curriculum.  A good starting point would be for curriculum planners to know who their Gaelic-speaking partners are, and begin to ascertain how they can assist with planning and delivery of learning.

Finally, I would like to invite you to a seminar at the Scottish Learning Festival which focuses on how technology can increase learning through the medium of Gaelic. e-Sgoil presents a digital solution to delivering the curriculum. The headteacher of e-Sgoil will share an evaluation of some pilots that ran this year. Information on how to register for this seminar, and the festival programme, are available here.

Briefing on Gaelic Education⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

The latest Briefing on Gaelic Education is now available.

Seo fiosrachadh ur:

https://www.education.gov.scot/improvement/gael4-briefings-on-gaelic-education

 

The Scottish Attainment Challenge within overall school improvement⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

By Graeme Logan, Strategic Director, Education Scotland

We have a once in a career opportunity to make a significant breakthrough for children living in poverty in Scotland through the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC). The areas for improvement highlighted in our recent report ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012-2016’ (QuISE) report are all very relevant to our national mission to close the poverty-related attainment gap and to strive for excellence and equity for every child in Scotland.

SAC, including the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF), gives us the additional resources to transform children’s progress and attainment. I know that many headteachers I speak to are excited about the possibilities. They are also keen to make sure we make the best use of these resources.

At Education Scotland we aim to provide you with the best possible advice on what works. In addition to the inspection evidence in QuISE, our advice includes access to a Scottish version of the Education Endowment Foundation’s Learning and Teaching Toolkit, and also our own Interventions for Equity, which shares a range of interesting examples and approaches from Scottish schools which have been involved with the SAC programmes.

Other significant changes we have introduced this year will also help. These include clarity on the model of assessment for the broad general education, which is teacher judgement of children’s achievement of Curriculum for Excellence levels, informed by a range of evidence and high quality moderation.  This demonstrates the value and trust placed in our teachers to make overall judgements about children’s progress. In doing this, teachers helped us to create the new Benchmarks for literacy and numeracy, which clarify the national standard for the achievement of each level.

We are taking a broad definition of the attainment gap and are not just considering statistics on overall attainment in isolation. If we are to achieve the vision of Curriculum for Excellence we need to think about achievement in a range of areas too. Earlier this year I spoke to around 2,000 headteachers from every part of the country in a series of events. We encouraged them to think about the attainment gap in the context of five key areas:

  • Attendance
  • Attainment
  • Exclusion
  • Engagement
  • Participation

The first three may seem more obvious and in some respects easier to measure. However, engagement and participation are equally as important for children’s progress and development. Some schools have started to track all five areas, for example, observing the extent of children’s active engagement in learning through use of tools such as the Leuven Scale of Engagement.  They have also started to track the extent to which children participate in the school’s wider curriculum and wider offer.

Schools will not be able to make the breakthrough we want to see for children living in poverty on their own. Many third sector and partner organisations are making a major contribution to improving children’s progress and engagement, and there are examples on the National Improvement Hub; type ‘Scottish Attainment Challenge’ into the search box to see all our resources.

One of the most important partnerships is that with families and communities. In the first year of the Challenge this was the area in which we saw least activity, and we’re actively looking at how we can change that. Our Review of Family Learning provides a good evidence base and recommendations for ways in which family learning can be developed within communities.

With inspection looking at attainment (QI 3.2) from August, including how schools are using PEF to close the gap, now is a good time to self-evaluate your approach to attainment. We will be particularly interested in the rationale and initial decision making for the use of PEF, as we believe that this will be key to ensuring that the most effective interventions are selected for each individual school and community context.

Online collaboration is also a key feature of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. Our Yammer group on Glow for headteachers has over 1,000 members! The largest ever online collaboration between Scottish headteachers. My keynote presentation from the pupil equity conferences is available on the Yammer group. Further key materials will be shared through the Yammer group too. I am currently preparing a keynote presentation for our September Curriculum for Excellence conferences for headteachers. During this presentation I will discuss ways in which curriculum flexibility and curriculum design can be used to close the gap. I will also share the most effective approaches attainment advisors have shared and also draw on the key strengths from schools where HM Inspectors have evaluated the new QI on raising attainment and achievement.

Closing the poverty-related attainment gap is a national endeavour and something which many teachers feel passionate about. For many the main reason they entered the profession was to make the biggest difference to children’s chances in life, particularly those who live in poverty. Reflecting on QuISE’s five priorities for improvement, as well as the specific focuses of SAC, will help ensure the success of our drive to remove the pattern between lower attainment and living in poverty.

QuISE’s five improvement priorities are an excellent place to start.

Using evidence to improve outcomes in secondary⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

By Carol McDonald, HM Inspector and Lead Officer for secondary inspection

Time to reflect on inspection evidence is always an interesting and key part of our work. Reviewing our findings for the recent report ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012 – 2016’ (QuISE) highlighted some important strengths in the secondary sector over a period with significant changes to the curriculum.

Inspectors appreciate the opportunity inspection offers to engage in dialogue with staff, parents, partners of the school and the young people themselves.   We learn a great deal from our discussions which informs many aspects of our work.

You can read the secondary chapter from QuISE on our website.  In secondary schools, inspectors found the curriculum in most schools evolving as new qualifications replaced old ones. Much of the work in schools focused on implementing new qualifications and increasing the range of accreditation available to young people in the senior phase.

Staff in schools recognised that to continue to improve attainment, improvements to learning pathways from S1 to S3 are required. Young people are well supported by the good relationships they enjoy with their teachers. However, too much variability was observed in the quality of learning and teaching.  Schools need to continue to work to ensure staff share a good understanding of the best features of effective practice.

Our evidence shows that schools need to use the wide range of evidence available to ensure that school improvement planning is manageable and achievable. The evidence from Insight, and from teacher’s professional judgements on the progress of young people, needs better used to inform improvement planning.

Schools are working effectively with partners to develop the young workforce using a range of innovative approaches. Senior staff in schools are using the Career Education Standard 3-18 (CES), the Work Placement Standard (WPS) and Guidance on School/Employer Partnerships as a platform to promote and develop DYW in their schools.  The use of the standards and the guidance to align and co-ordinate activity is still at an early stage.  Teaching staff, young people and employers are not yet aware of the entitlements and the expectations within the standards and guidance.

Our inspections in the current academic year show improvements in arrangements for assessing and tracking the progress of young people across all aspects of their learning. Using this evidence to implement appropriate interventions for individuals is key to improving outcomes for young people.  Collating the evidence at a department, faculty and whole school level allows staff to analyse and act upon necessary improvements.   Central to this work is the reliability of the assessment evidence.  We are seeing teachers beginning to make good use of the benchmarks to support them in this essential work.

In the best examples, schools are identifying, and taking account of, a range of features which may influence outcomes for young people. This includes factors such as being “looked after” (LAC), living in areas of social deprivation (SIMD 1 and 2) and having identified additional support requirements.  These factors need taken into account when planning learning for young people.

As staff continue to work hard in the interests of their pupils, they recognise that they are part of a wider team of adults that provide the necessary support to help young people succeed. It is good to see, and hear about, the successes of schools in improving outcomes for the young people in their community.

As we look ahead to next year’s inspections, I look forward to seeing these areas develop further, helping improve attainment for our young people.

Ruthvenfield Primary School Inspection Experience⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

As part of Education Scotland’s on-going Inspection Mythbuster’s campaign, which has been developed to help beat the common misconceptions of inspection which have built up over the years, we have invited the Headteacher at Ruthvenfield Primary School, Andrew Clark, to blog about his inspection experience.

“After the initial ‘excitement’ of receiving pre inspection notification had passed, my preparation for inspection followed four main areas:

  1. Engaging with staff: I met with all staff in the school to plan out our inspection week, listen to concerns and ensure that everyone would be prepared to deliver their best throughout the process. We scheduled meetings and arranged time to get together. The management team worked on the Self Evaluation, reviewing this with teaching staff before sharing with all staff for agreement.
  2. Engaging with pupils: This was about ensuring our learners would be ready to share their school and really show all their best qualities throughout the week. That was easy!
  3. Inspection week timetable: This phase was about managing the timetable across the week, ensuring parents had opportunity to meet with inspectors and that nothing was left out. We wanted to make sure everyone in our school had the chance to speak and share their involvement in our school.
  4. Paperwork: I spent time preparing paperwork for the inspection process and cross checking sources of evidence to make sure that no stone was left unturned.

I also found that the self-evaluation for inspections is an ideal starting point for discussions about your school’s context. Throughout our inspection I referred back to our self-evaluation to make sure that the stories that go along with the statements were easy to find and that examples were a true depiction that could be ‘lived’.

Meetings were held throughout the week and we used these to work together to develop the school’s picture. Quick ‘catch-up’ meetings in the morning were always welcome and allowed me to add detail to any points from the previous day’s meetings.

Our inspection team made themselves available in a non-threatening, supportive way throughout the visit. Inspectors spent time throughout the week interacting with staff about learning and particular learners. We also found the Professional Dialogue session on the Tuesday afternoon was an opportunity to ask some deeper questions about our practice.

Overall, our Inspection validated the very good practice across our school and provided insight into themes of development. As a result, our direction after inspection is even clearer and more focussed, and we are a stronger school community with a refined vision for how we move from Good to Very Good and from Very Good to Excellent.”

Andrew Clark, Headteacher at Ruthvenfield Primary School, Perth

For more information about the Inspection Mythbuster’s campaign please visit the Education Scotland website.

Improving assessment measures in primary schools⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

By Sadie Cushley, HM Inspector and Lead Officer for primary inspection

It’s been an interesting and rewarding process to review our primary inspection findings for the recent report ‘Quality and improvement in Scottish education 2012-2016’ (QuISE). In addition to that four year view, this year we have continued to observe improving practice, and this blog is a good opportunity to share some of that with you.

You can read the primary chapter from QuISE on our website. In primary schools, inspectors found that staff generally used a good range of learning and teaching approaches which enabled children to be more actively involved in their learning. Schools have taken many positive steps to develop and improve the curriculum and should build on this to meet the needs of all children.

Our evidence shows that schools now need to put in place better arrangements for assessing and tracking children’s progress, including having a shared understanding of standards within Curriculum for Excellence levels. As a priority, they should identify and address any gaps in attainment and achievement between their least and most disadvantaged children.

Our inspections continue to show that staff are working hard in most of the schools inspected to ensure that children are actively involved in their learning. Increasingly we see children less passive in their learning due to efforts made by staff to encourage children to think. A common misconception is that if children are moving around they are active in their learning.  Our strongest schools ensure children are thinking and learning during activities.

Often on inspections we can observe really strong practice in an aspect of learning in one class but not in another. It is important that staff visit other classes regularly to learn from their colleagues. A particular strength we observed in one school was where, as part of the moderation at a cluster level, staff at the same stage across the cluster planned a series of lessons to ensure consistency in standards. In addition, they observed these lessons being taught in classes providing feedback on the quality of learning and teaching. In doing this not only did they share expected standards but they achieved more consistent high quality learning and teaching.

This academic year there has been a noticeable improvement in the number of schools who now have a system to track children’s progress more effectively. In almost all schools inspected the headteacher and staff now have an overview of children’s attainment. Where this works best staff all have a clearly understood approach to assessment within their classes which is robust and informs their professional judgement.

In the strongest schools this is articulated in an assessment framework to ensure staff are clear of expectations. We have had several strong approaches to assessment in some of our inspections where staff plan assessment as they are planning their learning and teaching. Assessment is then part of the on-going work, it is less bureaucratic and there is a balance between the use of summative and formative assessment to inform staff of children’s progress.

Already we are seeing schools making good use of the benchmarks to assess children’s progress and make judgements about achieving the level. Since August we have noted some strong practice where staff and the senior management team  meet regularly to discuss the attainment of individuals and cohorts of children. In doing this, interventions are planned to raise attainment or close the gap in attainment, and previous interventions are evaluated as to their effectiveness.

A few schools inspected, in addition to having an overarching view of children’s attainment, drill down to monitor and evaluate the attainment of specific groups. For example, they look at specific cohorts such as children with English as an additional language (EAL), children who are looked after and accommodated (LAC) and children living in SIMD 1&2. This is particularly important in planning interventions to ensure the impact of pupil equity funding.

It is good to see these initiatives being implemented, and I look forward to seeing their impact on the outcomes of our primary pupils.

Confident collaboration for improvement – the legacy of QuISE?⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

by Dr Bill Maxwell, HM Chief Inspector of Education

The publication of our report on Quality and improvement in Scottish education (QuISE), ranging back over the period 2012 to 2016, has been a great opportunity to take a step back from more immediate short-term concerns and take a ‘bigger picture’ view of what has been achieved over a period of major reform which has touched every area of Scottish education.

Having launched the report, I would now encourage each education setting to read their dedicated chapter and consider it in their self-evaluation.

Of course there is already good evidence around that, as result of the professionalism and expertise of staff and of course the efforts of learners themselves, outcomes have improved over that stretch of time. National Qualification outcomes have steadily improved and the proportion of young people entering a positive destination post-school now sits at a record high. Although there is still a long way to go, we have also seen evidence of progress in beginning to close the attainment gap between pupils from the most and the least disadvantaged backgrounds.

Equally, of course, not all in the statistical garden in rosy. We have also seen some unwelcome indications that we should be concerned about the pace of progress in literacy and numeracy through the broad general education, for example, and we saw a disappointing set of PISA results for 2015.

The QuISE report, offers a distinctly different, but complementary, perspective from that which you can get by simply looking at the statistics. It provides an analysis based on first-hand observation and evaluation of the quality what is actually happening in playrooms, classrooms, lecture rooms and other educational settings throughout the country. It summarises observation and evaluation undertaken by expert professionals, HM inspectors and indeed many other associates and lay members from education sectors across the country who join our inspection teams contributing a valuable additional perspective.

Our analysis of what has emerged from that more qualitative evidence base over the last four years has led us to conclude that there are some very positive and growing strengths in the provision and practice within Scottish education. These are strengths that align directly with the ambitions of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and other related reforms.

We are seeing improvement in the quality of learning experiences, with the result that young people are increasingly well motivated, engaged and actively involved in their learning. We are seeing schools and other education settings becoming more inclusive, we are seeing a broader range of achievements being promoted and recognised, and we are seeing the impact of strong leadership, with a clear and sustained focus on raising the quality of the day-to-day learning and teaching that learners experience.

The report also sets out a set of five priority areas. This is where we believe targeted improvements in practice and provision would reap dividends in enabling us to make further progress towards meeting our collective national ambition of achieving excellence with equity for all Scottish learners. They include: exploiting more fully the flexibility of CfE; improving assessment and personal support; enhancing partnerships; strengthening approaches to self-evaluation and improvement; and growing a culture of collaborative enquiry. In all cases these go with the flow of current reforms and national strategies and in each case there are already examples of excellent practice in the system.

Taking a longer view of what has been achieved over the last few years, and thinking about where we go next, has also had quite a personal dimension for me, as I retire from the role of Chief Executive of Education Scotland this Summer. As I prepare to move on, I am convinced that the Scottish education system is well placed to make substantial progress across each of these key areas.

If I were to pick out a linking theme it would be about collective commitment across all partners in the education system to work together, to help each other, and indeed to constructively challenge each other, in ways which provide richer, more coherent, more personalised learning pathways capable of matching the needs of all our learners. Confident collaboration for improvement rather than competitive isolation should be the Scottish way, reflecting our deep national commitment to a strong education as a common public good.

Taking account of the themes in this report, and with the National Improvement Framework providing a new level of clarity and focus from national to local level, I am confident that we can rise to the challenge that the OECD left us with following their 2015 review: to make sure we achieve the potential of a progressive programme of national educational reform, by taking bold and specific action to fully realise its benefits. I hope the QuISE report helps inform discussion and debate in education settings of all types, across the whole country, about where that specific action is needed and how boldness can be ensured as it is pursued.

 

Larbert High School Inspection Experience⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

As part of Education Scotland’s on-going Inspection Mythbuster’s campaign, which has been developed to help beat the common misconceptions of inspection which have built up over the years, we have invited the Headteacher at Larbert High School, Falkirk, to blog about his inspection experience:

“You know at some point an inspection is inevitable and it was actually a bit of a relief when we received notification of our inspection for January 2017. No more ‘dreaded boxes’, just a simple and efficient email from our Inspection Administrator at Education Scotland and a call from our Head of Service.  This was followed by a lengthy conversation with our Managing Inspector, who in a very reassuring manner, described the process in detail and answered our (many) questions.

There is definitely some lingering scepticism in the system as to whether or not ‘HM Inspectors are working in partnership with the school’ (as is heralded) but our experience – before, during and after – absolutely affirmed that this was their genuine intention from the start. Each and every member of the team operated with that mindset in every interaction we had with them, we just treated them as part of our team and viewed it as a rare opportunity for some robust external validation.  You always think what you are doing is the right thing, and you constantly self-evaluate and compare yourselves to others, but you do not always have the luxury of having the national perspective.  Therefore, the validation for us was important.

It is important to ‘manage’ the preparation, ensuring everyone remains calm, reassured but focussed. The most significant preparation for the Senior Leadership Team following notification was the collaborative approach to completing the Self Evaluation Summary and we were forensic in its completion, matching the evidence we were providing for the team against HGIOS4. We thought we knew our school really well but having completed this exercise, we know it even better now and this is something that we would strongly recommend all schools do in advance as part of their self-evaluation cycle – even if you are some time away from a visit.

Inspectors are busy people and there is a lot to fit in during the course of a week. As the opening discussion was taking place with some members of the team, others were out and about in classes.  We did not have a big, elaborate presentation just a very honest and direct conversation around the paperwork that we had previously submitted.  During the course of the week the conversations and interactions continued and we found the team to be flexible and accommodating – it genuinely seemed like a partnership and we got the impression that they wanted to do the very best for us (as well as us for them). 

The hardest part is the build-up to the actual inspection week which undoubtedly does comes with a little professional anxiety; everyone wants to do their very best. The self-evaluation summary is the building block from which it all starts, and if it is robust and honest, it makes the week far easier allowing time to be spent engaged in conversation – we could not stress that enough, so make a mental note to start on it soon.”

Jon Reid, Headteacher at Larbert High School, Falkirk

For more information about the Inspection Mythbuster’s campaign please visit the Education Scotland website.

 

Adapting our approach⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

AGD 2015 imageBy Alastair Delaney, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Inspection, Education Scotland

There’s a famous Chinese proverb that states ‘A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it’.

It’s a simple yet effective proverb for how we should approach all work in which we engage. But in reality, many of us are guilty of being too focused on the task at hand and the looming deadline, that we do not spend long enough adapting our approach to suit changing circumstances. We just want to get the job done.

A couple of years ago we decided it was time to put this proverb in to practice with our inspection approach.

We wanted to fully consider the changing education environment and shape our approach to meet the needs of the system.

We were committed to fully reviewing the process without rushing to a conclusion; hearing from the various people who are involved in inspections rather than second-guessing what they thought about the process; and taking our time in trying out proposed approaches before implementing any changes.

It has been a lengthy process but an absolutely necessary experience to get us to the strong position we are in today and to ensure we can shape our approach around the education ‘vessel’.

The first of the new inspection approaches, the ‘full establishment model’ is this week being implemented in early learning and childcare, and school settings following a thorough consultation with partners.

Inspectors will use the new Quality Indicators included in ‘How Good is Our School? (4th edition) during inspections and in inspections of nursery classes and early learning and childcare centres, we’ll use the equivalent QIs from ‘How Good is Our Early Learning and Childcare?.

Another new aspect of the approach that I am particularly pleased with is that a further QI for focus will be negotiated with the school. It’s a real partnership approach and will enable school staff and inspectors, together, to focus on a particularly challenging issue or new initiative, with the aim of bringing about improvement through professional dialogue.

But we’ve not finishing shifting shape and to be effective we must continually adapt to circumstances. We plan to introduce a suite of inspection models, which we can use in different contexts and for different purposes. We are working on the development of our short inspection, localised thematic and neighbourhood review models, and will continue to engage with teachers, parents and stakeholders to gather their feedback.

The review has been carried out with a strong focus on consultation and we do not want to lose this important element of development. When all new inspection models are implemented we will continue to seek feedback, we will be flexible in our approaches and ensure we continually shape our approach to best meet the needs of Scotland’s education system.

Look out for future blogs on our progress with evaluating and implementing the new inspection models.