Quality is a journey, not a destination

Asking two simple questions is the first step in evaluating how well something is working, and beginning a conversation about how to make things better.    It’s a way of moving beyond “everything is ok”, to understand in greater detail what is actually  working well and what perhaps isn’t delivering as anticipated.

This resource helps you to look at the quality of food in schools in Scotland, allowing you to focus on particular aspects, ask yourself challenging questions, agree what needs to be improved and to work in partnership to deliver that improvement.  It’s about creating a culture of self-evaluation in which everyone has a role to play in improvement and everyone is valued for their unique perspective and experience.

How good is food in schools in Scotland? is a quality framework for everyone involved in food provision and food as a context for learning in schools across Scotland.  It requires education and catering staff [1] to work together using relevant, high quality evidence to assess and understand what is working well and identify areas in need of improvement.

The design of the framework is based on a self-evaluation approach which promotes and supports transparency, openness and accountability.  When applied to food in schools across Scotland it will support a better understanding between actions taken and the impact these have on children and young people’s health and wellbeing.

The framework is supported and designed by experienced local authority catering and education practitioners, working in partnership with Education Scotland’s Health and Nutrition Inspectors. It takes account of the European Framework for Quality Management and the Public Sector Improvement Framework.


In July 2018, Scottish Government published its plan to help people in Scotland make healthier choices about food, A healthier future: Scotland’s diet and healthy weight delivery plan. The plan encompasses many aspects related to food and health across all ages. A number of outcomes specifically reference children, young people and the school environment. The work taking place in schools has well-established roots in the recent past. In 2003, the introduction of Hungry for Success – A Whole School Approach to School Meals in Scotland, brought food in Scotland’s schools into focus. The need to improve experiences of Scotland’s children and young people in relation to food in school plays a significant part in improving health and education outcomes for all. Building on this initial work The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 was passed and remains the overarching legislation around food provision and a whole school approach in promoting health and wellbeing. There is currently (November 2018), a review of The Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008 (HPN Act). Schools  take account of health and wellbeing in planning and delivering Curriculum for Excellence Health and Wellbeing experiences and are guided by Health Promotion Guidance for local authorities and schoolsGetting it Right for Every Child sets the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) at the heart of the services that support them. Health Boards and local authorities working with their partners, including schools, play a key role in the delivery of better health outcomes for children and young people. Scottish Government worked with partners to develop Better Eating, Better Learning (BEBL), published in 2014 to support better partnership working between education and catering staff. The aim being to recognise the strength of collaborating with partners[2] to bring about improvements based on a better understanding of the work of others.

Self-evaluation activities may already take place using other frameworks including How Good is our School?, How Good is Our Council? How Good is OUR school for children and young people and the Better Eating Better Learning self-evaluation toolkit. These documents and other evaluation resources share a common language and can be used alongside How good is food in schools in Scotland?, removing the need to duplicate work.

 Why use this resource?

  •  It is designed to support organisations, partners and individuals to understand what is working (having the intended impact), what needs improvement(and why) and how they might best use resources(including staff) to greatest effect to deliver improvements.
  • It will enable your staff and partners to better understand their contribution to, and the difference made to the health and wellbeing of children and young people as a result of their involvement .
  • It will support staff and partners at all levels to become more confident about using evidence to demonstrate the difference they make.
  • It provides you with reflective questions to prompt discussion about your work.
  • It complements other evaluation resources allowing evidence to be used interchangeably.
  • It shares a common language with other evaluation frameworks developed by Education Scotland.
A note about the term ‘self-evaluation’

This term is used to cover the way in which individuals, groups and organisations explore their progress, development and practice to identify what is working well, what has improved and what still needs to improve. It is a way of using evidence to assess achievements, success and areas that require action. It is never an end in itself but a means to inform action which will lead to increasingly positive outcomes for the children and young people you work with.

 The Quality Indicators(QIs)

The self-evaluation resource consists of six quality indicators reflecting important areas of your work.   Quality Indicators are standardised, evidence based measures of quality which support you to thoroughly examine your work and evaluate what is working well  and what could be improved.  One Indicator relates to implementing the specific duties and nutritional regulations under the HPN Act related to food in school. The other five are structured around key characteristics of health promotion as they relate to food in school.

  • The Health Promotion and Nutrition Act
  • Leadership and Management
  • Environment and Resources
  • Partnerships
  • Ethos and Culture
  • Curriculum, Learning and Teaching

Each of the quality indicators is equally important. There is a strong relationship between them and all quality indicators contribute to measuring the capacity for improvement. When evidence from different quality indicators is combined it can create a unique and powerful story to answer the key question: How good can we be? The QIs also link to complementary QIs within How Good Is Our School? 4 .

Getting started – how to use How good is food in schools in Scotland?

The resource can be used flexibly. It is not necessary to use a complete QI nor the entire framework for self-evaluation to be effective. You may choose to start by looking briefly at all of the QIs. Through this, you may identify the ones most appropriate to explore in more detail. You might start with a QI which challenges you, or an aspect you feel more confident about. Although you do not need to use every QI, they do relate to one another and it would be useful to demonstrate self-evaluation across them all over time. See other suggestions for getting started in the Tools and Resources section.

For ease each of the QIs follows the same format however you can choose at which point to begin.

    • Gather – helps you identify the kind of evidence you should aim to collect to show the impact of your work.
    • Analyse – sets out reflective questions to help you reflect on and question your evidence in depth.   This will help you understand what is working well and what needs to be improved.
    • Evaluate and Plan includes an illustration of what very good practice might look like.  This offers a national benchmark for you to evaluate your evidence against.  It is intended to provide examples of evidence and practice, not to be fully comprehensive, nor be used as a checklist.  Having identified what you need to improve you now need to plan how you will make it happen. Questions are provided to help you structure an action plan showing what you agree needs to be done and how you will work together with partners to deliver that improvement.

 A few words about evidence

There is no absolute right or wrong type or source of evidence to use although there are essential pieces of evidence required to show compliance with the nutritional regulations of The HPN Act. The quality of the evidence gathered is more important than the quantity.  To allow you to look at aspects of your work from all angles your evidence should take account of information and data, peoples view’s and direct observations of practice.

It is important to ensure the evidence you use is:

  • Credible – for example have questions in a survey been well defined and consistently applied?  Has appropriate data collection and analysis been carried out?
  • Valid – for example does your evidence measure or test the question/topic as intended?
  • Reliable – for example if carried out again would results be same/comparable?
  • Relevant – for example has it been designed to suit the context and use?

The evidence gathered will help you evaluate what you are doing well, what needs to improve and will help you prioritise what to do next. Senior staff need to lead and manage the processes and methods for gathering, analysing, reporting and using evidence. Frontline staff are vital in collecting evidence and as a result they need to fully understand the purpose and importance of evidence. They need to be part of the process of planning, implementing and using evidence to evaluate practice and identify what needs improvement.

 Evaluating using ‘The six point scale’

 The six-point scale is a tool for comparing your performance against a national standard. It is not necessary to use this scale however it is useful way of judging how well you are doing. Further information on the six-point scale is available at HGIOS? Pages 62-63.

For each QI in the framework there is a description of what an evaluation of “very good” might look like – a level 5 illustration.   By using this to support professional dialogue and critical reflection you can gauge how well you are doing, where improvement is required and determine an evaluation of performance.

For example

An evaluation of very good means that there are major strengths in this aspect of work. There are very few areas for improvement and any that do exist do not significantly diminish children and young people’s experiences. An evaluation of very good represents a high standard of provision for all children and young people and is a standard that should be achievable by all. There is an expectation that the organisation(s) and partners will make continued use of self-evaluation to plan further improvements and will work towards improving provision and performance to excellent.

Once you have agreed an evaluation this can be plotted on a chart to give a visual representation of how well you are doing. This is available in the Tools and Resources section .

Further, more detailed information on self-evaluation can be found on the Education Scotland website.