Inspectorate and Inspection

Inspection and Evaluation in Schools

Section 13 of the Education Act 1998 defines the statutory functions of the Inspectorate. Sub-section 7 states that “An Inspector shall have all such powers as are necessary or expedient for the purpose of performing his or her functions and shall be accorded every reasonable facility and co-operation by the board and the staff of a school or centre for education”.

The DES has published a single comprehensive guide to the 8 external inspections/evaluations currently conducted at second level in “A Guide to Inspection in Post-Primary Schools” on 1st September, 2016.  This guide supersedes previous individual inspection guides. Click

The 8 external inspections/evaluations are:


  • Incidental Inspection  
  • Subject Inspection
  • Programme Evaluation
  • Evaluation Of Action Planning For Improvement In DEIS Schools
  • Evaluation of Centres for Education
  • Whole-School Evaluation –Management, Leadership and Learning
  • Whole-School Evaluation
  • Follow-through Inspection


The “Code of Practice for the Inspectorate 2015” sets out how the Inspectorate conducts its work in schools.

The Code specifies 4 principles underpinning the work of the Inspectorate in schools: 

  • A focus on learners
  • Development and Improvement
  • Respectful engagement
  • Responsibility and accountability


From 1 September 2016 onwards, the work of inspectors in schools and the ensuing reports will be based on the standards set out in “Looking at Our School 2016: A Quality Framework for Post-Primary Schools”.


The “Looking at Our School 2016” standards relate to 8 domains: 

  • learner outcomes
  • learner experiences
  • teachers’ individual practice
  • teachers’ collective/collaborative practice
  • leading teaching and learning
  • managing the organisation
  • leading school development
  • developing leadership capacity


Inspectors will examine these domains and their reports will express how well standards are met in each domain using descriptors, for example, Very Good, Good, Satisfactory, Fair, Weak.

What classroom teachers need to know for Subject Inspections: 

  • 5-days’ notice by phone or email
  • Principal/subject teacher complete Subject Information Form in advance
  • Inspection can include temporary teachers and student teachers
  • Normally not more than two lessons per teacher ( a double-class is considered as a single lesson)
  • If there is only one teacher of the subject in the school, more than two lessons may be observed
  • Teachers are expected to be able to indicate to inspectors  written termly or annual plans: individual written lesson plans are not required
  • Subject department plan will be examined
  • Post-evaluation meeting with subject teachers and subject team (if possible) at agreed time
  • Draft report issued to principal/chairperson of the board for factual verification (5 school days) and for school response (10 school days)
  • Subject inspections are not normally conducted within the first two weeks, or the last week, of the school’s year.*
  • *this also applies to WSE and WSE/MLL


 What classroom teachers need to know for Incidental InspectionsNo advance notice 

  • First lesson period normally excluded
  • Teachers are expected to be able to indicate to inspectors  written termly or annual plans: individual written lesson plans are not required
  • Oral feedback provided to teacher at the end of the lesson and to the school Principal
  • No written report


Publication of inspection reports


Review of inspections reports

A teacher or a board of management affected by an inspection may seek a review of the inspection using the procedures outlined in the “Procedures for Review of Inspections on Schools and Teachers under Section 13(9) of the Education Act,1998”.


School Self-Evaluation

Section 21 of the Education Act 1998 requires schools to develop a school plan stating the school’s objectives regarding access and participation, and the measures proposed by the school to achieve these objectives. The Act obliges boards of management to regularly review and update the school plan. School self-evaluation is defined in Circular 0040/2016 as a further development of school planning.

Circular 0040/2016 sets out the requirements on schools for the second cycle of school self-evaluation. It states that:  

  • school self-evaluation incorporates school development planning and DEIS action planning for improvement
  • schools should continue to focus on teaching and learning
  • schools should select a minimum of two and a maximum of four aspects of teaching and learning as the focus for their self-evaluation process from 2016 to 2020
  • schools will use the process to assist them in introducing and embedding relevant aspects of the Junior Cycle Framework, as outlined in circular 0024/2016
  • schools should maintain a brief record of their self-evaluation in the form of a short self-evaluation report and school improvement plan
  • once annually, boards of management should complete a policy and legislative checklist of their ongoing process of policy development and review, and their compliance with requirements, as an internal record
  • each year, schools should create a very brief summary of the self-evaluation report and school improvement plan and communicate it in a way that makes it accessible and meaningful to parents



School self-evaluation must be undertaken in the context of the teaching and learning domains and standards set out in the Quality Framework for Schools - Looking at Our School 2016: A Quality Framework for Post-Primary Schools”.