The Inspectorate’s approach
The governing body is responsible for the quality of education at its schools, which is why the Inspectorate’s regulation starts and ends there. We distinguish between the basic quality (statutory criteria) and the governing body’s and school’s own ambitions (i.e. the quality aspects that they themselves have defined). We ensure that the basic quality is in order. In addition, we encourage governing bodies and schools to pursue their ambitions and achieve improvements above and beyond the level of basic quality.
The four basic principles of our regulation
- The Inspectorate’s supervision keeps in dovetail with the governing body’s responsibilities.
- The Inspectorate safeguards statutory quality and encourages governing bodies, schools and educational programmes/institutes to pursue their own quality ambitions
- All governing bodies are inspected every four years. Additionally, all schools and educational programmes/institutes are inspected every four years in different ways
- Follow-up inspections depend on the Inspectorate’s assessment of the governing body’s system of quality assurance.
This assessment consists of:
- the annual analysis of students’ achievements
- the four-yearly inspection of governing bodies and school
Supervision in higher education works differently.
Four-yearly inspection of governing bodies and schools
Our inspections of governing bodies always cover quality assurance and financial management. Components of the four-yearly inspection are different for secondary vocational education and inclusive education alliances.
We may conduct any of the following inspections at schools:
- The verification inspection assesses whether the governing body’s quality assurance system actually work in practice.
- If we suspect that the quality of a school is inadequate we conduct a inspection into risks.
- On the request of the governing body, we may also inspect schools that the governing body feels are deserving a rating of ‘Good’ the overall judgment ‘Good’. This is subject to the condition that the school must first complete a self-evaluation.
At the heart of the four-yearly inspection are the following questions:
- Does educational quality receive sufficient emphasis and are measures in place to improve educational quality?
- Is there a professional quality culture in place and is the governing body characterized by transparency and integrity?
- Does the governing body pursue an active policy of communication on its own performance and developments and the performance of its schools and the developments taking place there?
- Is the financial management sound?
What is involved in a four-yearly inspection of a governing body and its schools?
A. Expert analysis
All four-yearly inspections of a governing body and its schools start with an expert analysis of the information available to the Inspectorate about the governing body and the relevant schools or programmes. The governing body is not required to supply new information for the purposes of the expert analysis.
B. Initial meeting with the governing body
During the initial meeting with the governing body, we ask them to give a presentation on the schools’ performance and developments. We then compare the presentation to the results of our own analysis, which is based on our annual monitoring activities. These activities provide us with a preliminary picture of quality assurance, educational quality and financial management.
C. Inspection plan
We then use the result of the expert analysis and the initial meeting to formulate an inspection plan in which we describe our activities in the various phases of the inspection, both at governance level and at the school level. The plan specifies which schools we will inspect for verification purposes and the standards we will focus on. We also indicate in the plan whether we intend to conduct an inspection into risks or whether we intend to assess a school for a rating of ‘Good’.
We use the result of the initial meeting to formulate a tailor made inspection plan. The plan specifies which schools we will inspect for verification purposes and the standards we will focus on. We coordinate to the greatest degree possible with the governing body on the scheduling and organization of the inspection activities.
D. Inspection of the governing body
In the preparatory phase, we have already formed a preliminary picture of quality assurance, quality of education and financial management. We now focus on these aspects in practice. Do they serve to guarantee the quality and continuity of education? Does the quality assurance system encourage continued improvement? What are the ambitions of the governing body and the schools? To answer these questions we speak with a number of stakeholders, such as quality assurance officers, school administrators or coordinators. In addition, we hold an interview with the governing body, the internal supervisor and the participatory body. During this interview, we review the preliminary judgements of the schools we have inspected.
E. Inspection at school
The Inspectorate physically visits schools to conduct inspections at school level in accordance with the inspection plan and by making use of an assessment framework. A key principle is that we always draw on multiple sources when formulating our conclusions. We discuss our initial findings with the designated individuals at the school immediately following the inspection.
We endeavour to forge a connection with the way the school perceives itself as formulated in the school plan. Schools can give more nuance to this perception by giving a presentation at the start of the inspection, enabling the team to paint a complete picture of the state of affairs at the school. What is the school’s vision, what are its ambitions and goals, what results has the school achieved? The contents of the presentation are completely up to the school. Our task is to listen, watch and ask questions. We also look at how the information provided links to the school plan.
F. Final meeting and report
After the inspection the Inspectorate prepares a draft report containing the results of the entire inspection, both at governance level and at the school level. We report on verification inspections in two ways. At the level of the governing body, we use the results to substantiate our judgements in the areas of quality assurance and ambition. The results at the level of school or programme are contained in a separate section: here, we present and substantiate our judgements based on the predefined standards.
We discuss the draft report during the final meeting with the governing body. During this discussion, we identify things that are being done right prior to focusing on the points for improvement. We distinguish between improvements that are required to bring the school up to standard, and recommended improvements. We ask the governing body what they intend to do with the results of the inspection. Following the discussion of the final report with the governing body, we correct any factual inaccuracies and amend the report as necessary. The final report also specifies the follow-up regulation and the governing body’s role in this process. The report is a public document and will be published on our website.
G. Feedback meeting at the school
It is our intention that the governing bodies and the schools/programmes not only acknowledge the veracity of our judgements and assessments, but that they use our reports as points of reference for further development. The governing body may request a feedback meeting prior to the final meeting to discuss these topics. In some cases, these two meetings will be combined in a single session. Schools that we have inspected due to potential risks may also request a feedback meeting following the site inspection. We will then meet with the school administrator and teachers to provide substantiation of the findings emanating from our inspection, and we will answer any questions they may have.
H. Follow-up regulation
We use the results of the four-yearly inspection to specify the structure of the follow-up regulation of the governing body and the schools/programmes. Our judgement of financial management and quality assurance is the determining factor for the severity of the follow-up regulation. The more positive our judgement, the lighter the follow-up regulation. We will intensify our follow-up regulation if the governing body fails to demonstrate a sufficient grasp of finances or of quality assurance and improvement.
In principle, we make agreements with the governing body regarding follow-up regulation for a period of four years. These agreements can be amended in the interim, depending on the remediation of any shortcomings and potential new improvements as disclosed during our annual monitoring activities. In general, we distinguish between four scenarios, depending on our judgements and findings.
1. Quality assurance in order and no shortcomings at schools and/or the governing body: confidence – no follow-up regulation required.
2. Quality assurance in order, shortcomings detected: agreements with the governing body regarding its role in follow-up regulation.
3. Quality assurance not in order: the Inspectorate conducts remedial inspections in all cases.
4. Financial management not in order: combination of scenarios.
Annual performance analysis
We conduct an annual performance analysis of every school or institution based on the information available to the Inspectorate about the governing body and the schools or programmes.
We look at a number of factors, including pupils’ learning outcomes and developmental progress. We also examine developments in enrolments and staffing, along with the governing body’s annual report. We analyse the data gleaned from these sources at least once a year. We also consider any signals received from teachers, parents, pupils or other sources. We conclude our analysis if we do not detect any risks. In this case, the governing board will not hear from us. If we do suspect risks, then we will conduct an expert analysis. The annual analysis also serves as the basis for the four-yearly inspection of the governing body and the schools.
The four-yearly school inspection
During the four-yearly inspection of a governing body and its schools, the Inspectorate pays site visits to some of the schools falling under the governing board’s responsibility. We conduct different inspections of the other schools in which we focus on mapping out a specific topic.
The inspection may, for example, focus on equal opportunities in the transition between primary and secondary education, or an inspection of inclusive education. We also conduct interim inspections if we detect risks at a school during the annual performance analysis or in response to specific signals that we receive. By pursuing this strategy, we keep every school in the picture.