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After publication of the skills strategy, inspectors who had represented HMIE in the development of Skills for Scotland produced a detailed analysis of the strategy and made proposals for ways in which all directorates within the inspectorate should respond. The proposals were endorsed by the senior management group of the inspectorate, as well as attracting the approval of colleagues from the Scottish Government.

Action to date since the publication of the Skills Strategy

HMIE holds a number of cross-directorate Continuous Professional Development events each year. In order to inform every directorate within HMIE of their obligations arising from the strategy, a half-day session at each of the three events, held across the country in December 2007, was dedicated to presentations and discussions on the skills strategy. As well as inputs from inspectors, attendees heard presentations from colleagues from Employability and Skills (the Skills Strategy team). These inputs were followed by structured workshops attended by every inspector in Scotland. At the workshops, inspectors discussed ways in which their directorate could support their sectors with regard to the actions arising from the strategy, and how these issues might impact upon HMIE support, advice, challenge, inspection and review.

As a result of these events, all directorates within the inspectorate - early education, primary and secondary schools (including independent schools, residential schools and secure units), colleges, community learning and development, education authorities and children's services - have increased the focus on the development of skills in learners and the delivery of those skills. All directorates are examining transition and progression arrangements through and between their sectors, with a view to increased partnership working. These will be evaluated in all inspection and review arrangements. Inspectors working with the college and community learning and development sectors continue to evaluate and report on engagement with other partners in the development and delivery of appropriate skills. Similarly, closer working between community learning and development and schools has led to the evaluation of broader aspects of learning that take place in a learning community.

In early-years education, inspectors focus on essential skills, including core and personal and learning skills. They evaluate the opportunities that children have to develop skills, as well as the progress they make in these skills. In addition, they monitor the learning skills of pre-school staff. In the new model for inspection of early-years provision, inspectors will also monitor the uptake of the SCQF level 9 award for those managing schools and centres.

In the inspection of residential schools and secure units, there is a strong focus on the development of essential skills, including interpersonal skills, skills for employability and skills related to individual learning plans or care plans. The inspection of skills is embedded in the new inspection arrangements for primary and secondary schools. During inspection and reporting, inspectors use a toolkit and a writers' guide, which provide clear guidance on how to evaluate the ways in which schools are addressing the requirements of the skills strategy. The effectiveness of these were evaluated at the end of 2008 and any required enhancements will be made next year.

Scotland's colleges continue to review and evaluate all the essential skills, as well as vocational and citizenship skills. Inspectors report specifically on learners' wider achievement in terms of their development of these skills. Learners set goals for the development of these skills and progress against these goals is evaluated by HMIE. The inspection of community learning and development continues to centre mainly on informal learning, with the emphasis being on the development of skills by the learner.

Future activity

All HMIE directorates will review the way in which they inspect, review and report on skills this academic year. Meanwhile, HMIE has created a cross-directorate Skills group, which has the remit to monitor and direct these reviews and developments, to provide advice to all sectors in relation to skills development and to liaise with employability and skills, and SDS colleagues. Through this group, HMIE will share updating information with colleagues and will conduct annual evaluations of the progress made in supporting the skills strategy.