As part of Education Scotland’s on-going Inspection Mythbuster’s campaign, which has been developed to help beat the common misconceptions of inspection which have built up over the years, we have invited the Headteacher at Larbert High School, Falkirk, to blog about his inspection experience:
“You know at some point an inspection is inevitable and it was actually a bit of a relief when we received notification of our inspection for January 2017. No more ‘dreaded boxes’, just a simple and efficient email from our Inspection Administrator at Education Scotland and a call from our Head of Service. This was followed by a lengthy conversation with our Managing Inspector, who in a very reassuring manner, described the process in detail and answered our (many) questions.
There is definitely some lingering scepticism in the system as to whether or not ‘HM Inspectors are working in partnership with the school’ (as is heralded) but our experience – before, during and after – absolutely affirmed that this was their genuine intention from the start. Each and every member of the team operated with that mindset in every interaction we had with them, we just treated them as part of our team and viewed it as a rare opportunity for some robust external validation. You always think what you are doing is the right thing, and you constantly self-evaluate and compare yourselves to others, but you do not always have the luxury of having the national perspective. Therefore, the validation for us was important.
It is important to ‘manage’ the preparation, ensuring everyone remains calm, reassured but focussed. The most significant preparation for the Senior Leadership Team following notification was the collaborative approach to completing the Self Evaluation Summary and we were forensic in its completion, matching the evidence we were providing for the team against HGIOS4. We thought we knew our school really well but having completed this exercise, we know it even better now and this is something that we would strongly recommend all schools do in advance as part of their self-evaluation cycle – even if you are some time away from a visit.
Inspectors are busy people and there is a lot to fit in during the course of a week. As the opening discussion was taking place with some members of the team, others were out and about in classes. We did not have a big, elaborate presentation just a very honest and direct conversation around the paperwork that we had previously submitted. During the course of the week the conversations and interactions continued and we found the team to be flexible and accommodating – it genuinely seemed like a partnership and we got the impression that they wanted to do the very best for us (as well as us for them).
The hardest part is the build-up to the actual inspection week which undoubtedly does comes with a little professional anxiety; everyone wants to do their very best. The self-evaluation summary is the building block from which it all starts, and if it is robust and honest, it makes the week far easier allowing time to be spent engaged in conversation – we could not stress that enough, so make a mental note to start on it soon.”
Jon Reid, Headteacher at Larbert High School, Falkirk
For more information about the Inspection Mythbuster’s campaign please visit the Education Scotland website.