Closely modelled on the How Good Is Our School? performance indicators for schools, Quality Management in Education was described as "the bible for the first round of inspections" by Bill Clark, head of the HMI quality, standards and audit.
The self-evaluation document, launched at the Murrayfield conference, reveals that the Inspectorate expects authorities to pay attention to five key areas: strategic management; consultation and communication; operational management; resource and financial management, and performance monitoring and continuous improvement.
The document says councils need to demonstrate "range and rigour of processes for collcting information to measure establishment and authority performance". Mr Clark said: "This should be a signal to all authorities who've been a bit slow in this that it is now a clear expectation: you cannot have rigorous self-evaluation without clear data."
There will also have to be "evidence of improvement in standards of performance in areas targeted for improvement". This could flag up, for example, weaknesses in staff access to development opportunities, management deficiencies or a failure to link stated local policies with action in schools.
Authorities will be judged on the same four-point performance scale as schools.
Sam Galbraith, the Children and Education Minister, said the new quality standards were derived from actual practice and were not "abstract constructs".