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HMIE is first to spread the net

Su Clark reports from the annual conference of educational psychologists in Scotland.

Scotland is to pioneer inspection of local authority psychological services from next year. Ahead of the rest of the UK, HMIE is introducing planned inspections using the model employed for schools.

The move, unveiled at the conference by Anna Boni of the inspectorate, follows a recommendation from the review group on psychologists, chaired by Eleanor Currie, former director of education in East Renfrewshire.

Published in 2002, the group's report called for a more formal framework of evaluation using self-evaluation, peer evaluation and inspection by HMIE.

Educational psychologists will now be requested to self-evaluate in line with the six-point scale being developed for schools. Self-evaluation will then inform regular planned inspection.

Ms Boni told the conference: "Key performance outcomes must consider continuous improvement and performance and they must be measured against local objectives. The inspection will not be an audit, but it will be robust."

HMIE is still at the early stages of developing the framework for inspection, and used the con-ference to encourage feedback from the profession on the systems developed so far. But Ms Boni, a past chair of the Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists, made it clear the aim will be greater accountability.

"Psychological services is the weak link in the chain of inspection," Ms Boni commented. "We have to develop a system that is deep and meaningful, and which gives us an opportunity to present good practice.

"It is a wonderful opportunity, and a bit scary, but we will be able to see trends."

Inspections will rely heavily on case notes, rather than observation, given the sensitive nature of the profession. But inspectors will also run focus groups and meet stakeholders to gather information during what is expected to be a seven or eight-day process.

Ms Boni promised that inspection would follow a trail to other departments, such as occupational therapy, health visitors and social services. Where a psychologist gives advice to a school which is then ignored, inspectors will be able to note it. "We will have a system that gives credence to information coming back to us," she said.

Pilots are to be launched during 2006, with a full programme of inspection thereafter.

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