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Children's services scrutinised

The latest version of the inspectorate's groundbreaking How Good Is Our School?, the third in the self-evaluation series started in 1996, has been published today and will apply to the scrutiny of all children's services for the first time.

It is being updated to take account of changes in the curriculum, assessment and flexibility, as well as HMIE's new responsibilities for child protection.

Graham Donaldson, senior chief inspector of education, has hammered home his message that self-evaluation is not an end in itself and "is worthwhile only if it leads to improvements in the educational experiences and outcomes for children and young people, and the maintenance of the highest standards where these already exist".

The number of quality indicators in HGIOS will remain the same, at 30, but the schools and other agencies dealing with children will be expected to ask themselves six broad questions:

* What outcomes have we achieved?

* How well do we meet the needs of the school community?

* How good is the education we provide?

* How good is our management?

* How good is our leadership?

* What is our capacity for improvement?

For the "joined-up" inspection of children services, these questions will be customised for health, social work and the police. The aim is to embed a "common language" about measuring quality, Mr Donaldson says. He chairs the group of chief inspectors and chief executives of all the inspection bodies dealing with children's services, including Audit Scotland.

The various inspectorates are under instruction from the First Minister to have an integrated approach to the inspection of children's services by 2008.

This is on hold until the completion of a "scrutiny review" of the inspection, regulation, audit and complaints handling of all public services in Scotland. Led by solicitor Lorne Crerar, it was set up in response to growing concern about the increasing burden of scrutiny piling up on public services from a host of agencies. He is expected to make his recommendations to ministers in June.

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