Tag Archives: inspection

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.

Creativity across Learning #9 – What kind of inspection, quality assurance and accountability regimes support creativity in learning?⤴

from @ Laurie O'Donnell

This is the ninth post that draws on the unpublished Creativity across Learning report of 2011. This is the final chapter and, to my mind at least, covers a highly controversial area quite sensitively.  It genuinely reflects what practitioners, teachers and school leaders, were telling us. However in the end this was probably the section that killed off any chance of publication.

The initial quote comes from Clayton Christensen’s et al Disrupting Class – How Disruptive Innovation will change the way the World Learns 

… the current education system – the way it trains teachers, the way it groups students, the way the curriculum is designed, and the way school buildings are laid out – is designed for standardisation.
(Christensen, Horn & Johnston)

Inspectors and quality improvement officers are by definition external, not engaged in the day-to-day processes of learning and teaching in classrooms.  Members of the Creativity group [the expert group brought together by the LTS Advisory Council in 2011 - LO'D] reported that whilst some professionals might perceive such external evaluation as helpful and supportive in guiding their ‘journey to excellence’, others felt rather less positive about inspection and quality assurance processes, perceiving inspections and local authority visits as being about busy, disengaged officials making rather superficial snapshot judgments before moving on to the next establishment.  The group considered a range of questions, for example, Are inspection and quality assurance by their nature anti-creative and stifling of innovation? Does it still take a very courageous school leader to protect teachers from the negative impact of inspection and quality assurance visits on classroom creativity?

There has been significant progress in Scotland towards establishing approaches to inspection and quality assurance that are more collegiate, participative and balanced, and promote self-evaluation. The group reflected on the extent to which there may be further to go on that journey, including consideration about whether self-evaluation and ‘proportionality’ sufficiently encourage risk-taking among practitioners, and help them to feel confident that they will be judged on what really matters – the outcomes for children and young people that they have agreed, and the extent to which they have been effectively supported to achieve them successfully.

There are many highly creative professionals working in every part of the Scottish education system. Many feel that the pressures and constraints on establishments can make it difficult to achieve a balance between achieving ‘academic’ success and the wider learning that supports the education of the whole child, and that it is therefore difficult for them to support and foster their own and learners’ creativity.  An open and consultative approach to quality assurance which aims to ensure that we look outwards as well as inwards when we evaluate our own performance should be supportive to efforts to promote creativity.  Proportionate approaches, which allow the efforts of school to be recognised and, in a sense, rewarded through the engagement that inspectors and quality improvement staff have with them, should further build the confidence of teachers.

One of the challenges that we face is giving all teachers confidence that these principles will be honoured.  Justified or not, members of the group reported that there is still considerable concern about being harshly or unfairly judged, especially when that judgement is a public one. There is also some anxiety about the standards that are used in making judgments, and whether they properly focus on meeting learners’ needs. The group considered that is an area where we need to continue to build and maintain effective partnership and good communication at all levels in education in order to promote high quality provision for all learners.

[I'm planning on doing a tenth post - a postscript. If you want to give me any comments then contact me through Twitter @laurieod and I'll do my best to reply. In the meantime have a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year.]

The post Creativity across Learning #9 – What kind of inspection, quality assurance and accountability regimes support creativity in learning? appeared first on Laurie O'Donnell.

If no one is listening, are you still a teacher? by @TomBarwood⤴


This post answers the 33rd question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks. Thunk 33: If no one is listening, are you still a teacher? by @TomBarwood If no one is listening, are you still a teacher? My problem is not thinking of thunks, but spending too much time doing the opposite. I seem to … Continue reading

When observations go wrong: #SecretOfsted by @TeacherToolkit⤴


This is a #SecretOfsted @TeacherToolkit article: A teacher’s experience of Ofsted, in Gloucestershire. Over the past 4 weeks, I have published three articles since the ‘famous-five entered the gates of Ofsted Headquarters. Those Ofsted articles, highlighted several questions for teachers, working in a special school; why lesson feedback can be so divisive?; and a senior-leadership’s … Continue reading

The @OfstedNews headlines⤴


“Since 2009, inspectors have been instructed not to grade the overall quality of a lesson they visit.” Here are the headlines clarified from Ofsted’s, Mike Cladingbowl’s article, published today. If you are a teacher – who has received an observation judgement in your career (particularly since 2009) – and do NOT read this document; then … Continue reading

#SecretOfsted: A special school experience for @OfstedNews⤴


… The location and identity of this school, is not disclosed in the following article, but, the relevant Ofsted report is to be passed to Mike Cladingbowl for consideration at this week’s Ofsted meeting. This #SecretOfsted post, is written by a teacher who works in a Special School in London. Context: This article follows a … Continue reading

#Vamoose! I’m off… to a meeting with @OfstedNews⤴


Over the course of the past 18 months, the grass-roots Twitter-channel of @SLTchat has slowly made its voice heard in the echelons of those that sit above us in the educational-hierarchy. As a result, recently I posted how the social-media epoch is out-dating Ofsted and The Department for Education. As a result, I have been … Continue reading

Secret @TeacherToolkit: A leadership experience of Ofsted #SecretOfsted⤴


This is a Secret @TeacherToolkit article: A leadership experience of Ofsted in England. Earlier this week, I received an email from a senior teacher in South England. After a few email exchanges, we decided it would be best to share this experience – anonymously – via my blog. You can read the original email below, … Continue reading