Scottish school inspections have been suspended for well over a year as a result of the Covid pandemic, but today Education Scotland has announced their phased return.
On 13 March 2020, Education Scotland took the decision to pause its routine inspection programme due to the Covid-19 pandemic but today, in a post on its website, it said it planned to resume its scrutiny activity this year.
The focus initially will be on schools that were due to have a further inspection, with new individual inspections of schools set to start from January.
The body will also be carrying out three national inspections focusing on supporting children’s and young people’s wellbeing, local approaches to recovery and outdoor learning.
Janie McManus, Education Scotland’s strategic director for scrutiny, said that some schools had been awaiting the outcome of inspections that were planned pre-pandemic or would have been scheduled over the past 18 months, and the first phase of visits would enable those establishments "to have their improvement work recognised".
Education Scotland school inspections 'will take Covid pressures into account'
She added: “We are committed to ensuring that the work of the inspectorate promotes and celebrates improvement. Our inspectors will take into account the pressures and challenges of the pandemic and the disruption it has caused to the education system.”
HM Chief Inspector of Education & Chief Executive of Education Scotland, @GayleGgorman, talks about how HM Inspectors of Education will adopt a phased approach to resuming scrutiny activity https://t.co/jvlOSAia4U pic.twitter.com/zx3mcce064— Education Scotland (@EducationScot) September 16, 2021
The Education Scotland announcement comes two days after Tes Scotland contacted the body for an update on its inspection plans. This is a time of considerable uncertainty for the organisation – in the wake of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) review of Curriculum for Excellence, the Scottish government announced plans to remove responsibility for inspection from Education Scotland.
An expert panel has now been appointed to help shape the future of inspection, led by Professor Ken Muir, former chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
The Education Scotland statement says: “Initially, inspectors will engage with establishments and services that were due to have a further inspection. Having changed their approach to take account of the impact Covid-19 has had, [inspectors] will undertake visits with timing arrangements planned in advance with local authorities and establishment. These visits will be planned and carried out before the end of 2021.
“There will be a particular focus on discussions with leaders and practitioners as to the impact of the pandemic and the actions the school has taken and continues to take to support recovery and improvement. HMIE (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education) will discuss with staff the progress around the areas for development identified from earlier scrutiny activity. Following the visit, HMIE will publish a report.
“Thereafter, from January 2022, HMIE will undertake a programme of individual early learning and childcare (ELC) settings and school inspections. HMIE will continue to take account of Covid-19 recovery and the context in which establishments and settings have been working, as well as providing evidence for the Scottish government’s National Improvement Framework.
“HMIE is also carrying out three national thematic inspections in the coming months to support education recovery. These will focus on supporting children’s and young people’s wellbeing, local approaches to recovery, and outdoor learning.”
Scotland's chief inspector of education, Gayle Gorman, said: “We have carefully considered our approach to scrutiny activity for this academic year. We recognise how challenging the Covid-19 pandemic has been for everyone alongside the ongoing pressures on staff and learners of returning to establishments after the summer break and given the current health challenges.
“We want to support the education system to recover from the impact of the pandemic and we would like to thank all local authorities, staff, learners and their families for their continued hard work and resilience through recent difficult times.