University of Edinburgh

Self-Evaluation by Peripatetic Sensory Services

Quality Assurance in Education Authority Peripatetic Sensory Services


The national and international context

The Salamanca Statement: Framework for Action in Special Educational Needs (1994) stated that inclusion and participation are essential to human dignity and the enjoyment and exercise of human rights and that, specifically, in education, there should be evidence of a genuine equalisation of opportunity.

In the recent Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act 2000, the Scottish Parliament undertook the implementation of the UN Convention, stating:

  • it shall be the duty of the authority to secure that the education is directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential [2 (1)].
  • the education authority shall have due regard, so far as is reasonably practicable, to the views (if there is a wish to express them) of the child or young person in decisions that significantly affect that child or young person, taking account of the child or young person's age and maturity [2 (2)].

Section 15 of the Act requires that education be provided in mainstream schools except in certain circumstances which are presumed to arise 'only exceptionally'. However, it reiterates the need to take into account the views of the child and of the child's parents.

Peripatetic sensory services work within a national context which includes voluntary organisations such as the National Deaf Children's Society (NSDC) and the Royal National School for the Blind (RNIB). This support document for peripatetic sensory services takes into account the issues raised in the documents Quality Standards in Education (Scotland) (NDSC) and Vision for the Future: A Framework for Minimum Standards in Visual Impairment Education 2nd edition (RNIB). Services should draw on these and other relevant documents in considering the quality of service delivery.

The local context

In order to enable education authorities and schools to evaluate their effectiveness within a national context, performance indicators were introduced in 1992. These were refined and enhanced so that they could be used consistently and coherently within a national framework, yet provide a flexible approach to evaluating performance regardless of sector. How good is our school? was published in 1996, followed in 1997 by Taking a Closer Look at Specialist Services. A further document, The Manual of Good Practice in Special Educational Needs, published in 1999, was widely welcomed by schools and services as providing practical support for the process of self-evaluation.

This support document for peripatetic sensory services owes much to the earlier publications and the format will be familiar. 

Service aims

The primary aim of a sensory service is to provide appropriate and effective educational support to children and young persons with sensory impairments (and their parents/carers) from pre-school onwards, according to each individual's identified needs. The sensory service also aims to ensure that the audiological and visual requirements of the children/young persons are met.

In fulfilling these aims, service planning, development and delivery are structured around the following considerations and activities:

  • Referral to Service / Registration
  • Deployment of staff / Appropriate levels and patterns of provision
  • Resources required / Revenue budget
  • Staff Development Programme / Training
  • Assessment / Attainment
  • Evaluation / Future planning

All of these are supported by the implementation of a service development plan.

The purpose of the document

How good is our school? poses three questions as a framework for self-evaluation: How are we doing? How do we know? What are we going to do now? The main purpose of this support document is to assist peripatetic sensory service staff to pose and answer these questions in the context, specifically, of their service. It highlights key areas, aspects and themes which are particularly relevant to peripatetic sensory services as they aim to provide added value/'additionality' to the education of children/young people with sensory impairments within mainstream education. It also takes into account the principle of Best Value. 

By focusing on issues which are particularly relevant to them, the document should help peripatetic service staff to evaluate overall service quality; to evaluate and improve the quality of partnerships with mainstream colleagues; and to assess the contribution made by the service to the education of children/young persons with sensory impairments and to the fulfilment of each individual's potential. It should also assist in the processes of service development planning and staff development and review.

The key areas covered in this document are: Intervention, Ethos, Management / Planning / Service Delivery, Learning / Teaching / Support, and Attainment, These key areas have been selected and elaborated so that, used alongside How good is our school?, they provide an appropriate framework for peripatetic sensory service evaluation within a national context.

Local authorities organise and manage their support for children and young people with sensory impairments in a variety of ways. Provision can vary significantly in terms of staffing and resources. Evaluation materials should be adapted as necessary to suit the local context.

This document, used alongside the other documents mentioned, will also assist authorities in those aspects of strategic development planning which concern provision of specialist peripatetic services to children and young persons with sensory impairments, and to their families.

This document does not set out to provide benchmarks for service delivery. It is for services to determine their own targets, consistent with their aims and policies, as part of the process of self-evaluation and development planning. Services looking for help in setting targets for service delivery can refer to documents such as Vision for the Future (RNIB) and Quality in Education - Scotland (NDCS). These and other helpful documents are listed in appendix 1.

Principles of good practice

The Manual of Good Practice listed a set of principles derived from Scottish law and international statements of principle, from statements and guidelines about inclusion, and from guidance on effective provision for meeting special educational needs. This volume takes account of those principles and reproduces them here in an up-dated form (see principles in italics) which takes account of recent changes in legislation. An additional principle recognises the importance of responding to the communication needs of children/young persons with sensory impairments.

  • Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide for all children and young persons in their area an education directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child or young person to their fullest potential.
  • All children and young persons have an equal opportunity to achieve excellence, to have the highest expectations set for them and to have their achievements valued in the environment which suits them best and where they feel valued and safe.
  • All children and young persons have an entitlement to a curriculum in accordance with the policy of the authority and in line with national guidance. The curriculum satisfies the principles of breadth, balance, progression, continuity and coherence.
  • All children and young persons have a right, where appropriate, and if they wish to do so, to express their views on decisions that significantly affect them; those with communication difficulties are, where necessary, assisted to express their feelings and views. Local authorities must have due regard to these views, so far as is reasonably practical, and taking into account the child or young person's age and maturity.
  • Parents' responsibilities to safeguard and promote their children's health, development and welfare and their rights in relation to how their children are educated are recognised and respected.
  • Parents are active and informed participants in the assessment of their child's special educational needs and in the formulation and review of measures to meet those needs.
  • The provision of services gives due regard, without discrimination, to disability, gender, religious persuasion, racial origin and to the cultural and linguistic background of children, young persons and their parents.
  • Quality provision for meeting special educational needs is best achieved within the context of a positive ethos of partnership between parents and schools, local authorities, education support services, and other agencies working with children and young persons.
  • Education is provided in mainstream schools in all but exceptional circumstances.
  • The effective provision of services requires an inclusive strategy which is understood by all concerned, is operated collaboratively and commands the confidence of children, young persons and their parents. 
  • Quality services for meeting special educational needs are supported by strategic policies, effective planning and resource allocation by the local authority and other service providers, and by a structure which establishes procedures for monitoring and evaluating the services provided for children and young persons.
  • Professionals in local authorities, schools and support services work with relevant voluntary and health sector organisations in a spirit of inclusion, partnership and collaboration. The contribution which each makes is valued equally and regarded as complementary.
  • Schools have a key role to play in enabling all pupils and staff to achieve excellence. 
  • All children/young persons have the right to a developed communication system which enables them to communicate effectively in a variety of settings and for a variety of purposes.

How to use this document

Using performance indicators

Using performance indicators for quality assurance has become standard practice in the Scottish educational context, and owes much to the publications How good is our school? Taking a Closer Look at Specialist Services and The Manual of Good Practice in Special Educational Needs. This support volume elaborates points of particular relevance to peripatetic sensory services and should be used in conjunction with these.

In How good is our school? staff are encouraged to evaluate their performance using four recognised levels:

Level 4 - very good - there were major strengths
Level 3 - good - on balance, strengths outweighed any weaknesses
Level 2 - fair - while there were some strengths, there were some important weaknesses
Level 1 - unsatisfactory - there were major weaknesses

Using this volume

By using the features of good practice listed in this volume to elaborate the performance indicators found in, for example, How good is our school?, peripatetic sensory services will be able to evaluate the service they provide, to recognise their strengths, to identify areas where improvement may be needed and to use this information to assist them in drawing up their Service Development Plan.

The Aspects of Service Provision are organised in five Key Areas, and each Aspect has a number of Themes. Service staff using these materials for self-evaluation are advised to be selective, and to focus on a single area, or group of related areas, at any one time. There is no one way of conducting self-evaluation, but the following suggestion may be helpful for those undertaking the process for the first time. How good is our school? and Taking a Closer Look at Specialist Services also offer clear and helpful guidelines on how self-evaluation might be managed.

How are we doing?

Step 1.
Select one of the key areas for review, and pick out an aspect of service provision which covers themes you wish to explore in depth. These may be aspects of service delivery which have been identified as requiring development, or may be aspects which have received little attention in the past. Locate and provide copies of the performance indicators[1] to which each aspect relates. These are indicated at the top of each page.

[1] The performance indicators referred to throughout this document are the ones in How good is our school?(HGIOS). At time of going to press, these PIs are being revised to take account of recent developments. Services should bear this in mind when using the references provided.

Step 2.
Select and study the themes you wish to explore, and the related performance indicators. The features of good practice allow you to consider your own practice across the various themes. Services are not identical, so you may need to adjust some of the points to suit local circumstances. At this stage you may need to decide whether you can evaluate the chosen themes independently, or whether you will need to organise the evaluation in collaboration with other agencies.

How do we know?

Step 3.
Decide what forms of evidence would be useful and how the process of collecting and analysing the evidence will be managed[2]. Your approach should be objective, focused and rigorous. Existing sources of evidence may be satisfactory for the purpose, or you may need to seek new evidence. The views of parents/carers and children/young persons should also be sought.

[2]  See note on Collating the evidence, below.

What are we going to do now?

Step 4.
Agree outcomes from the exercise and the priorities which will form the basis of a report or audit on standards and quality.

Step 5.
Integrate the report into the process of development planning and use the information you have gathered to provide feedback to education management and related service providers.

By continuing the cycle of self-evaluation while monitoring and evaluating previous outcomes, all key areas can be reviewed in turn. This should lead to continuous improvement in the quality of service provided.


Step 1

A Service decides to review its resources. Staff select Aspect 3.4 (Resources), Theme i (Range and use of resources).

Step 2

Staff decide to focus on points a) c) and d) and to explore these in depth. They agree who will be responsible for collecting evidence, and the time-scales involved. If funding is required, measures to secure this are put in place.

Step 3

Those responsible make an up-to-date list of all materials owned by the Service. In doing so, they: check which pieces of equipment are out of use because they need servicing; check which items of hardware and software need renewal or upgrading; identify members of staff who need training in the use of existing or new materials; consult appropriate professionals and centres, parents and young persons, current catalogues, etc. in order to identify any gaps in their resources.

Step 4

Those responsible for carrying out the review report back on their findings, priorities are discussed.

Step 5

The information gathered and the priorities agreed upon are integrated into the process of development planning and are communicated to those who require the information.

Collating the evidence - How do we know?

The questions 'How do we know?' and 'What methods might be used to find ways of finding out the evidence?' can be applied systematically through the implementation of the service development plan.

Although evidence for some evaluation exercises may be found within existing documentation, there are many other potential sources of evidence: direct observation, interviews with children/young persons (in a variety of formats depending on the age and maturity of those involved); detailed surveys of opinion among staff, parents, school leavers, etc. All of these can yield useful information. The practical examples given in Part 4 of How good is our school (pages 71 - 81) provide many more suggestions for sources of evidence.


Some aspects of learning and teaching or management may be identified as areas to be evaluated every year; other aspects may require evaluation less frequently. The cycle of decision-making by the Service will need to take into account the implementation of their local authority and education authority service plans. The time-scale for the Service's evaluation exercise will be determined by the interim reports which are required by those to whom the Service reports.


Key Area 1 Requirement for Intervention / Support by Service

Aspects Themes
1.1 Referral and identification i.Initial response
ii.Initial assessment
iii.Recording and reporting assessment outcomes
1.2 Intervention i.Planning for support
iii.Collaborative practice
1.3 Implementation of SEN legislation i.Legislation 

Key Area 2 Ethos

Aspects Themes
2.1 General ethos i.Service ethos
ii.Corporate identity and responsibility
iii.Staff morale
2.2 Partnership with child/young person i.Communicating with the child/young person
ii.Quality of work with the child/young person
iii.Participation of child/young person in the process of learning 
2.3 Partnership with parents/carers  i.Communicating with parents/carers 
2.4 Links with schools, the authority and other agencies i.Partnerships with educational establishments
ii.Partnership with other agencies
iii.Effective communication with education management 

Key Area 3 Management, Planning and Service Delivery

Aspects Themes
3.1 Aims, policy and procedures i.Quality of policy-making and practice guidelines
ii.Effectiveness of procedures
iii.Quality of record-keeping
3.2 Service development planning i.Quality of the Service plan
ii.Implementing the plan
iii.Evaluation of performance in implementing the Service plan
3.3 Provision of qualified staff i.Effective deployment of staff
ii.Staff development and review
iii.Staff effectiveness
iv.Additional skills required 
3.4 Resources i.Range and use of resources
ii.Management of financial resources 
3.5 Quality assurance i.Self-evaluation
ii.Maintaining and enhancing quality
3.6 Effectiveness of leadership i.Effective leadership
ii.Effective practices

Key Area 4 Learning and Teaching

Aspects Themes
4.1 Quality of support for the teaching process i.Staff roles and responsibilities
ii.Planning, practice and evaluation
4.2 Quality of learning i.Quality of child's/young person's experiences
ii.Meeting learning needs 
4.3 Assessment i.Mechanisms for assessment
ii.Additional features of assessment procedures
iii.Service responsibilities 
4.4 Links with parents/carers  i.Dissemination of information to parents/carers
ii.Contact with parents/carers 
4.5 Support for children/young persons with sensory impairments: additional features  i.Personal and social development
ii.Confidence and self-esteem
iii.Quality of vocational guidance 

Key Area 5 Attainment

Aspects Themes
5.1 Overall quality of attainment  i.Attainment in coursework
ii.Performance in relation to national targets and examinations