The Inspectorate of the Department of Education carries out different types of inspections in schools and centres for education.
Early-years education inspections are carried out in early-years services participating in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme – a programme which provides a period of free early childhood care and education for children before they start school.
During these inspections, we evaluate the quality of the nature, range and appropriateness of the early educational experiences for children participating in the ECCE Programme. The main activity of an Early Years Education inspection is the observation, by the inspector, of the processes and practices relating to children’s learning in one or more learning rooms or areas in the early-years setting.
The Guide to Early Years Education Inspections outlines how we conduct inspections in early years settings.
The Guides to Inspections in Primary and Post-primary schools set out how we conduct inspections in schools. Information on the different types inspections in schools is shown below. A teacher or a board of management affected by an inspection may seek a review of the inspection using the procedures outlined in Procedure for Review of Inspection of Schools and Teachers under Section 13(9) of the Education Act, 1998.
You will find all school inspection reports on the Inspection Reports list page.
You can also use our Find a School directory to see information about an individual school, including inspection reports published for that school.
Whole school evaluations are carried out in primary and post-primary schools. During these inspections, we evaluate the quality of the school management and leadership, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and the school's own planning and self-review. The way in which we inspect the school during WSE varies somewhat. For example, we use slightly different processes in primary and post-primary schools; sometimes the inspection has a subject or curriculum focus and at other times, we concentrate on a range of different lessons across a wide range of subjects. We provide oral feedback to the school community at the end of these inspections and we provide a printed report which is published on our website.
Curriculum evaluations are conducted in primary schools. They are a focused evaluation of a particular subject of the primary school curriculum, such as mathematics, history or social personal and health education. During a curriculum evaluation we evaluate three main aspects of the school's provision for that subject: the quality of the pupils' learning in the subject, how the school supports pupils' learning in that subject and how the schools plans for that subject.
Curriculum evaluations generally take between one and two days and during the evaluation the inspector visits classrooms, interacts with pupils, examines aspects of their work, meets with some teachers and reviews a limited number of relevant school documents. We provide oral feedback at the end of these evaluations and the school receives a written report.
Subject inspections evaluate the teaching and learning of an individual subject in post-primary schools. We inspect how well the school plans for the teaching of the subject and the quality of teaching and learning in the subject department. We provide oral feedback to the school community at the end of these inspections and we provide a printed report which is published on our website.
Programme evaluations are used to inspect the provision of particular programmes that are provided in post-primary schools. These programmes include: Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), the Transition Year programme (TYP), Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) in post-primary schools. We inspect how well the school plans for the teaching of the programme and the quality of teaching and learning that students experience. We provide oral feedback to the school community at the end of these inspections and we provide a printed report which is published on our website.
The Inspectorate evaluates and reports on individual DEIS schools’ action planning for improvement. During these inspections, we evaluate how the school devises, implements and monitors its action plan and how this impacts on learner outcomes. We meet with the school principal, the in-school leadership team, and with groups of parents, pupils and teachers; and we observe teaching and learning in classrooms. Parents and pupils also complete questionnaires. Oral feedback is provided at the end of these evaluations and the school receives a written report, which is published on this section of the website.
Follow-through inspections evaluate the progress a school has made on implementing recommendations made in an earlier inspection where a written report has been published or issued to the school. The format of the follow-through inspection is determined by the recommendations in the published or issued report. The process allows for sufficient flexibility to gather evidence relating to the progress made on implementing some or all of the main recommendations in the original inspection report. At the end of the inspections, we provide oral feedback about the findings and we provide a written report which is published on our website.
Specialised or thematic inspections in schools are used when we want to examine the teaching of a specific subject or issue in the educational system. These inspections usually have a strong research focus. For example, we have used specialised inspections to examine issues in DEIS schools; we have also used them when we researched the teaching of English as an Additional Language (EAL). Normally, we provide oral feedback and a written report to the school or centre and often a national report summarising the general trends that we have identified.
Child protection and safeguarding inspections are carried out in primary and post-primary schools, schools attached to special care units and youthreach centres. During these inspections, we look in a focused and in-depth way at how school boards and school staff are fulfilling their legal responsibilities in relation to the protection and safeguarding of children as required of them under the Child Protection Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2017. In each school selected for a child protection and safeguarding inspection, two inspections are held – an initial child protection inspection and a final child protection inspection. Usually, the inspections take place within four to six weeks of each other. At the end of each inspection we provide verbal feedback to the school and a printed report. The report from each inspection is published simultaneously on our website. The process of conducting an initial and final inspection is designed to promote improvement in the implementation of child protection procedures by schools; it also facilitates the promotion of best practice in school leadership as it relates to child protection.
The Guide to Child Protection and Safeguarding Inspections sets out how we conduct child protection and safeguarding inspections in primary and post-primary schools, centres for education and other learning settings.
The evaluation of provision for students with additional and special educational needs is a focused evaluation of provision for students with additional and special educational needs in post-primary schools. During these evaluations inspectors report on the following questions:
During the evaluation inspectors visit both mainstream and support classes, engage with students, review their work, files, individual plans and assessment data and administer parent questionnaires. Inspectors also meet with special education teachers, special needs assistants and focus groups of parents and of students. The school receives an opportunity to report on its provision for pupils with special educational needs during these evaluations through completing a School Information Form and through meetings with the inspector(s). We provide oral feedback at the end of these inspections and the school received a written report.
Letter to schools on the Evaluation of Provision for Students with Additional and Special Educational Needs in Post Primary Schools
Letter to schools on the Evaluation of Provision for Students with Additional and Special Educational Needs in Post Primary Schools 5 February 2019
Schools attached to special care units and children detention centres are inspected annually by the Inspectorate in order to quality assure the education provided for the children, and to provide advice and support to the teachers, principals and the managements of the schools. The inspection of these schools takes into account the particular circumstances of the school, including the varied experiences of its students. During the inspection we place a particular focus on teaching and learning, the general management and operation of the school and the school’s capacity for improvement. We provide oral feedback to the school principal at the end of these inspections and a printed report is published on our website.
Evaluations of centres for education are carried out in centres such as youthreach centres and other centres that are not recognised schools. They are similar to whole school evaluations. During these inspections, we evaluate the quality of the centre management and leadership, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and the centre's own planning and self-review. We provide oral feedback to the staff and board of management at the end of these inspections and we provide a printed report which is published on our website.
Supporting the Safe Provision of Schooling (SSPS) Inspections are carried out in primary and post-primary schools, schools attached to special care units and Youthreach Centres. During these inspections, we look at how schools are implementing the department’s COVID-19 response plan for the safe and sustainable operation of primary and special schools. This plan provides key messages to minimise the risk of COVID–19 for staff, learners, families and the wider community while recognising the importance of the safe and sustainable provision of schooling for the health and wellbeing of students and of society as a whole.
At the end of each inspection we provide verbal feedback to the school and a printed report. The report from each inspection is also published on our website. The process of conducting SSPS inspection visits is designed to provide an assurance to the public that the department’s guidelines are being implemented and to support schools in implementing them.
Teagasc is the agriculture and food development authority in Ireland and is the main provider of further education in agriculture, food, horticulture, forestry and equine studies in Ireland. It provides courses in seven colleges, three of which are in private ownership. During these inspections we evaluate the quality of the education and training provision in those colleges. The inspection reports on lessons observed in a range of learning settings in the college, interaction with students and review of their work, meetings with the principal, with key staff members and with student representatives, completed staff questionnaires, and a selection of college documents. Teagasc and the college management are given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and their response will be found in the appendix of the report.
The Inspectorate of the Department of Education, at the request of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, conducts an annual programme of inspection on a sample of courses organised by individual Irish-language colleges. These Irish-language courses for post-primary students and senior primary pupils are generally three-weeks in duration and are mainly organised during the summer months.
Inspections of Irish-language courses assure the quality of the education provided for students and provide advice and support to the teachers, principals and the management committees of colleges. Inspection reports are based on the inspector’s observation of teaching, learning and cultural activities, interaction with students, discussion with management, and inspection of relevant documentation. At the end of each inspection, the inspector provides the teachers and the principal of the Irish-language course with feedback on the quality of educational provision in the setting.
Inspection reports on courses provided by Irish-language colleges are subject to the normal quality assurance procedures of the Inspectorate. The draft report is issued to the chairperson of the Irish-language college steering committee for factual verification, and later, the final report is issued for college response. Subsequently, the Irish and English versions of the inspection report are published on the website of the Department of Education and on the website of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.
This Guide to Inspections of Courses in Irish-Language Colleges (Coláistí Gaeilge) provides information on the model of inspection used by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education to evaluate educational provision in courses provided by Irish-language colleges.
Classes for children and young people with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD Classes) are special classes attached to a mainstream primary school that cater for up to eleven children who are in the senior classes (third to sixth) of a primary school. These classes offer intensive intervention in literacy skills to children and young people whose overall ability level is average or above and whose performance in literacy skills, as measured by a standardised test, is at or below the 2nd percentile. There are thirteen SLD classes attached to ten mainstream primary schools in the country.
The Inspectorate was requested by the Department’s Special Education Section to evaluate provision in these classes. This report captures the findings of that evaluation which was carried out in a sample of six classes in the period January 2020 – November 2022.
The report identifies the context in which these special classes were set up, and notes the evolving landscape, from the report of the Special Education Review Committee in 1993, to Ireland’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in March 2018. Against this backdrop the report looks at how provision currently operates for this cohort of students.
The evaluation found that pupil outcomes were good or very good in most, but not all, of these classes. The findings also note that while teachers’ practice in the majority of classes was at a good or very good level, this was not consistent across all classes and in one of the classes practice was less than satisfactory.
The evaluation also found that many of the factors that are characteristic of effective practice in all schools: leadership, teacher deployment, teacher continuous professional development and individualised planning, are also important factors influencing the quality of provision in the SLD classes. The findings indicate that the quality of these aspects of provision are good or very good in the majority of these classes. The quality was less than satisfactory in a few classes.The report also noted that, for some children attendance at these special classes required travel of up to 40 km. This raised concerns about issues of distance and separation from the child’s local community.
In assisting Special Education Section in determining policy options relating to the future of special classes for pupils with SLD, the Inspectorate considers the following to be particularly important:
(While this report highlights many aspects of practice within SLD classes, only longitudinal data can address questions regarding the longer term outcomes for children who attended these classes. Consequently the report recommends that the Department’s Special Education Section, in collaboration with the NCSE, should consider the possibility of requesting expressions of interest from educational researchers in researching the longer term outcomes for children who attended SLD classes attached to mainstream schools and the impact of the experiences of these classes on their future educational pathways.
Evaluation of Educational Provision for Children and Young People with a Specific Learning Disability Special classes attached to mainstream primary schools in Ireland