Reform of education inspection
In considering the improvements to Inspection the Scottish Government accepted Professor Muir’s recommendation in principle.
- A new inspectorate body should be established with its independence enshrined in legislation. Its governance should reflect this independence, with the body funded by the Scottish Parliament, staffed by civil servants and inspectors, the latter of which are appointed with the approval of His Majesty via the Privy Council.
- Critical roles of the independent Inspectorate will be to support improvement, evaluate major changes in the education system and report annually and over longer periods, on the performance of Scottish education.
Although the Scottish Government accepted the recommendation to establish a new inspectorate underpinned by legislation in principle, it did not accept the recommendation that the new inspectorate should be funded by the Scottish Parliament. Establishing the inspectorate using this model of funding would be very different to other inspectorate bodies. Additionally, a body funded by Parliament would not be staffed by civil servants and therefore runs counter to Professor Muir’s staffing recommendation which the Scottish Government supports.
There are two options being considered as to how inspection is structured and located within the education landscape. Firstly, a new separate executive agency could be established which would have inspection of education as its main function. Another option would be to establish a new office-holder. These options are considered in detail below.
Purposes of inspection
The Scottish Government supports the following core purposes of inspection:
- To provide public accountability and assurance on the quality of education to learners, their parents/carers and the Scottish Parliament.
- To support education providers, including schools, teachers and other practitioners to improve, through capacity building and sharing effective practice.
- To share evidence about education and training to support services to improve and inform the development of education policy.
These core purposes, which are broadly those of the current system, were endorsed by Professor Muir’s report and broadly supported through the associated consultation.
Question 6: Do you agree or disagree with the purposes set out? Is there anything in addition you would like to see included?
Range of establishments and services
The Scottish Government believes that it is important that education inspection continues to operate in the full range of establishments and services. This includes, for example:
- Primary and secondary schools (this includes public, grant-aided, and independent schools, and both mainstream and special/Additional Support Needs services, with or without residential provision);
- Nursery schools, i.e., those providing early learning and childcare, and funded partner providers of early learning and childcare;
- Gaelic education;
- Community learning and development services;
- Publicly funded colleges; private colleges; English language schools;
- Modern apprenticeship training;
- Education functions of local authorities;
- Educational psychology services;
- Career information, advice and guidance services;
- Initial teacher education;
- Compliance with Nutritional Regulations for educational establishments; and
- Grant-funded national voluntary organisations.
HM Inspectors of Education also currently contribute to inspection activity by other bodies that deliver inspection and regulation functions. This includes:
- Services for children and young people (at the request of the Care Inspectorate);
- Reviewing the educational provision provided to a ‘looked after child or young person’, who has subsequently died (at the request of the Care Inspectorate);
- Education provision in prisons and young offender institutions (at the request of HM Inspectorate of Prisons in Scotland).
In relation to publicly funded colleges and modern apprenticeships, the role of the education inspectorate sits alongside that of other bodies. The Scottish Funding Council has legal responsibility for the quality of fundable further and higher education provision in Scotland and currently provides funding to the education inspectorate to meet this responsibility in relation to further and higher education provided by colleges, on its behalf.
Skills Development Scotland (SDS) currently administers some Foundation and all Modern apprenticeships on behalf of the Scottish Government. The education inspectorate reviews the quality of delivery and impact of Foundation and Modern apprenticeship programmes and provides assurance of the quality of the apprentice experience funded by SDS to Scottish Ministers.
Question 7: Do you agree or disagree with the range of establishments to be inspected by HM Inspectors of Education? Is there anything you would change?
Question 8: Do you have any specific comments on the role of the inspectorate of education in the inspection of publicly funded colleges, initial teacher education, early learning and childcare and / or modern apprenticeships?
Maximising the impact of education inspection
While most respondents to Professor Ken Muir’s consultation supported the removal of the inspection function from Education Scotland, some indicated that this alone would not be enough to enhance the contribution of inspection to Scottish education.
There is clear support for reviewing the approach to education inspection, ensuring that the needs of children and young people are at the heart of the inspection process. This includes the need for greater focus on supporting teachers and other practitioners and providers to secure improvement, as well as building capacity in the education system to carry out self-evaluation.
Based on the evidence provided in Professor Muir’s consultation and subsequent engagement, we believe the following three priority issues, if addressed, would improve the operation and impact of inspection in the education system:
- Ensure that children, young people, adult learners, parents/carers, teachers and other practitioners, as well as the public, have confidence in the work of the inspectorate of education.
- Ensure the involvement of teachers and other practitioners, children, pupils and students, parents / carers, local authorities and providers in inspections.
- Ensure inspection evidence is being fully utilised to: (a) provide assurance and public accountability; (b) drive improvement and build capacity; and (c) inform practice and policy.
Question 9: Do you agree or disagree with the priorities set out? Is there anything in addition that you would like to see inspection cover?
Addressing the priority issues
This section seeks views on different ways the priorities in the previous section could be achieved – either through new legislation or through alternative options within current legislation.
Each of the three priority issues has been considered below - setting out the context and range of options for how we can take action to deliver on them.
1. Ensure that pupils and students, parents/carers, teachers and other practitioners, and providers as well as the public, have confidence in the work of the inspectorate of education.
At present, Education Scotland is responsible for supporting quality and improvement in Scottish education, and for inspection. As an Executive Agency, Education Scotland is responsible for operational decisions while remaining directly accountable to Scottish Ministers for its performance and use of public funds. This status safeguards the independence of inspection, review and reporting functions.
The inspectorate must continue to make judgements independently of providers and the Scottish Government. This enables it to evaluate the impact of interventions, the implementation of national policy and guidance, and the quality of education. That can encompass leadership and learning provision, as well as outcomes for learners. The inspectorate also has a key role in providing professional judgements on a provider’s capacity to improve and / or actions it has taken to improve. The inspectorate must always be able to carry out its role and report its findings without fear or favour.
In some responses to Professor Muir’s consultation, concerns were expressed that having inspection and education development functions within the same body created potential conflicts of interest and could undermine the inspectorate’s ability to perform its role well, including providing impartial comments on the impact of national guidance or programmes. This led Professor Muir to make a recommendation to Scottish Ministers that a new inspectorate body be established with its independence underpinned by legislation.
To address those concerns, and support public and professional confidence in the work of the inspectorate, we are seeking views on a range of options for taking forward reform.
Generally, there is limited legislation for the activities of the education inspectorate (set out in Education (Scotland) Act 1980) for the purposes of inspecting school establishments. Currently, Scottish Ministers have sole legislative power to ‘cause’ inspection (i.e. the legal power to determine when it happens and what provision is inspected). However, in practice, each year the HM Chief Inspector, currently within Education Scotland, sets out plans for the scale and priorities of the inspection and scrutiny programme across all education provision, from early learning to adult learning. This is then agreed with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, who can also commission specific inspection and scrutiny activity.
One option we are seeking views on, that does not require new legislation, would be to remove the inspection function from the rest of the current executive agency (Education Scotland), to create a distinct and separate executive agency. Establishing this type of education inspectorate means it would remain directly accountable to Scottish Ministers and have a specific and separately defined remit.
Another option would be to take forward legislation to establish the role of ‘HM Chief Inspector of Education for Scotland’ in law as an independent office-holder. As an independent office-holder, the HM Chief Inspector could have primary responsibility for setting the schedule, frequency and focus for inspections, as opposed to this remaining under the legislative control of Scottish Ministers.
Question 10: Do you have a view on these options for establishing the new approach to inspection?
2. Ensure the involvement of teachers and other practitioners, pupils and students, parents/ carers and local authorities and providers in inspections.
Reform of inspection presents an important opportunity to ensure that those who are involved in inspection (such as teachers and other practitioners), as well as children, young people, adult learners and other service users (and parents / carers where relevant) are more engaged around inspection. This could be achieved by making operational changes to the way inspection is carried out. There is also an opportunity to strengthen involvement in the governance arrangements for the inspectorate.
It is critical to public confidence that decision-making within the inspectorate is not unduly influenced by those it inspects. However, alongside that fundamental principle we could seek to ensure their perspectives are considered in the way in which the inspectorate operates. This could be the case whether the inspectorate operates as a distinct executive agency or as an independent office-holder.
Given there is currently no legislative underpinning for the governance of the inspectorate, new measures to strengthen governance and the voices of those involved in inspection could be considered within the current arrangements, for example by the setting up of a user focused advisory council.
Alternatively, this could be achieved through legislation, by requiring the Chief Inspector, as an independent office-holder set up by legislation, to establish an Advisory Council, with membership drawn from those likely to be affected by the Chief Inspector’s work. It could also place a legislative duty on the Chief Inspector to have regard to any advice provided by the Council and, where advice is not followed, to set out the reasons why.
Question 11: Do you have a view on how governance arrangements for the inspectorate could be developed to better involve providers, including teachers and other practitioners, pupils and students and parents / carers in inspection?
3. Ensure inspection evidence is being fully utilised to: (a) provide assurance and public accountability; (b) drive improvement and build capacity; and (c) inform practice and policy.
Inspection evidence is a key source of providing evaluative reports for parents / carers and the public; and providing assurance nationally, locally and at school/provider level about the quality of education being provided.
Reform provides an opportunity to develop a reinvigorated approach to inspection and enhanced sharing of evidence on what is working well in Scottish education, what needs to improve and how that improvement should happen. To do this we need to ensure evidence and data from the inspectorate is used more effectively to report on the performance of Scottish education, to support improvement, and to build capacity for improvement across the system.
Expectations in relation to reporting could be strengthened without the need for new legislation. For example, Ministers could set an expectation that the inspectorate publish a range of documents, explaining how the inspectorate carry out their work, including inspection practices and findings. This could also include a specific requirement to report regularly on the overall performance of Scottish education, providing an overall view across the education system to inform Ministers, Parliament, providers and the wider public.
Alternatively, the same requirement for reporting could be set out in legislation. For example, the Chief Inspector (established in legislation), could be required to report annually on the carrying out of their functions; to report annually on the performance of Scottish education, and to lay reports directly before the Scottish Parliament. Legislation could also include a duty on the Chief Inspector to publish individual inspection reports.
Question 12: Do you have a view on how we make sure evidence from inspections is being used as fully as possible to drive improvement and inform policy and on who the inspectorate should report to?
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