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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Quality assurance in early childhood and school education


11.Quality assurance

11.1Quality assurance in early childhood and school education

Last update: 30 March 2024

Quality assurance in early childhood and school education is ensured by Law No 31/2002, 20 December, amended by Article 182 of Law No 66-B/2012, 31 December, which approves the system for assessing education and non-higher education. The law determines that the assessment must be based on self-evaluation, which is undertaken at each school/school cluster, and external evaluation. 

Bodies responsible for external evaluation

Evaluating the educational system and schools is the responsibility of the following departments: the Inspectorate-General of Education and Science (IGEC), the Directorate General for Education and Science Statistics (DGEEC), and the Institute of Educational Assessment (IAVE, I.P.) (Decree-Law No 125/2011, 29 December).

In ECEC for children under three, crèche services are monitored, evaluated, and supervised by the relevant department of the Institute for Social Security, I. P.

The Inspectorate-General of Education and Science (Inspeção-Geral da Educação e CiênciaIGEC) checks the legality and conformity of work done by all the governmental bodies, departments and institutions in education and science, technology and higher education, as well as contributing to education system quality (pre-school, basic, upper secondary and higher education), including special types of education, out-of-hours provision, science and technology. IGEC does these tasks through control, auditing, monitoring and assessment activities, proposing measures to improve the education system and participating in schools' external evaluation, including pre-schools, basic and upper secondary schools and related activities. This evaluation identifies strengths, as well as areas to improve in each school, thus contributing to the design of school improvement plans (Regulatory Decree No 15/2012, 27 January).  

The Directorate-General for Education and Science Statistics’ (DGEEC) mission is to ensure the production and analysis of educational statistical data supporting policy design and strategic planning, providing comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of outcomes (Regulatory Decree No 13/2012, 20 January).

As part of pedagogic planning duties, the Institute of Educational Assessment (Instituto de Avaliação Educativa, I.P. - IAVE) coordinates, drafts, validates, applies and supervises external learning evaluation tools (Decree-Law No 102/2013, 25 July).

With regard to internal evaluation, the education and non-higher education evaluation system regulated self-evaluation and made it compulsory. Self-evaluation "must be ongoing and supported by educational administration”.

Approaches and methods for quality assurance

School evaluation is divided into two categories: internal evaluation (self-evaluation), conducted by the school itself, and external evaluation is undertaken by IGEC.

Internal and self-evaluation of schools

School self-evaluation is compulsory and ongoing. The annual activity report, the self-evaluation report and the financial management accounts are accountability mechanisms (Law No 31/2002, 20 December and Decree-Law No 75/2008, 22 April, amended by Decree-Law No 137/2012, 2 July).

The following aspects of self-evaluation are defined centrally (Law No 31/2002, 20 December):

  • The degree to which the education project has been successful.
  • The degree to which activities contribute to school development.
  • The performance of schools’ administration and management bodies.
  • School success.
  • The level of cooperation culture among members of the educational community. 

It should also include conclusions regarding the implementation of curricular policies, resources and support frameworks for inclusive education (Article 33 of Law No 116/2019, 13 September).

Three bodies are responsible for internal evaluation: the general council, the head teacher and the pedagogic council.

The general council: 

  • evaluates periodic reports and approve the final annual activity plan report.
  • requests the necessary information from the other bodies in order to efficiently monitor and evaluate the school and make recommendations. 

The council can also form a permanent committee to monitor school cluster activities.

The head teacher: 

  • drafts and submits the annual activities report for the general council’s approval.
  • takes part in the teaching performance assessment and evaluates non-teaching staff.

The pedagogic council:

  • monitors and evaluates the implementation of decisions and recommendations.

Each school’s internal regulations may include entities that collaborate with the pedagogic council and head teacher when coordinating, supervising and monitoring school activities, and in evaluating teaching performance, namely classroom activities.

Teacher self-evaluation is regulated by Regulatory Decree No 26/2012, 21 February, which establishes the system for evaluating teaching staff performance in pre-school, basic and upper secondary education. It is based on an annual report that identifies professional development opportunities for teachers, improving teaching processes and students' school results. It is essentially a reflective document that focusses on teaching practice; activities organised; an analysis of results obtained; the contribution to the objectives and goals established in the school cluster or non/clustered school’s educational project; the training carried out and its contribution to improving education.

Vocational schools on the public and private network must create internal criteria for assessing the school, teachers and students. They should also implement quality assurance systems for training processes and the results obtained by their students, in articulation with the European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for Vocational Education and Training (EQAVET) (see Decree-Law No 92/2014, 20 June).

External evaluation of schools

IGEC has already undertaken two cycles of kindergarten and public school evaluation (2006-2011/2011-2017), and began the third cycle of external evaluation of schools in the 2018/19 school year. In the new cycle, in addition to public schools, private vocational schools, private and cooperative educational establishments with association or sponsorship contracts and those whose income stems primarily from public sources will also be evaluated. One of the new features of this cycle is the introduction of educational and teaching practice observation. 

The aims of this activity are:

  • to promote the quality of teaching, learning and the inclusion of all children and students.
  • to identify strengths and priority areas to improve school planning, management and educational practice.
  • to measure the effectiveness of schools' self-assessment practices.
  • to promote a culture of participation in the educational community.
  • to contribute to better public awareness of the quality of schools' work. 
  • to produce information that supports decision making regarding educational policies.

During the regular evaluation cycle, each school/school cluster is assessed once.

The clusters/schools evaluated in the second cycle of external evaluation (2011- 2017) are selected, with priority given to those with lower scores and those evaluated at the beginning of this cycle. Private schools that have signed association contracts are also evaluated.

The evaluation team is made up of two inspectors and two experts external to IGEC (teachers or researchers working in higher education institutions with whom IGEC has signed protocols), in order to diversify evaluation perspectives.

The external evaluation framework covers four areas, each one with various fields of analysis:

  • self-evaluation: development, consistency and impact. 
  • leadership and management: vision and strategy; leadership; management; self-evaluation and improvement.
  • provision of educational services: children and students’ personal development and well-being; educational provision and curriculum management; teaching, learning and assessment; planning and monitoring of educational and teaching practice.
  • outcomes: academic results; social outcomes; school community acknowledgement. 

The fields of analysis are made up of references and indicators.

Each area being evaluated is assigned a rating according to the following five-level scale: Excellent/Very Good/Good/ Sufficient/Insufficient.

The evaluation teams prepare and undertake their duties in schools according to the following methodology:

  • documentary analysis. 
  • analysis of statistical information.
  • analysis of reports regarding satisfaction questionnaires for the educational community (pupils, parents, teachers and non-teachers).
  • educational and teaching practice observation.
  • school visits (observation of facilities).
  • group interviews.

At the end of the evaluation, the team prepares the school report. All evaluated schools are given the opportunity to comment on the external evaluation report. The evaluation results are published and the evaluation reports, comments/challenges (where they exist) and the teams' responses to comments/challenges are made available on the IGEC site.

An interim evaluation focussed on certain areas may occur at the request of the evaluation team or the school, following improvements or the implementation of innovative processes. There may also be interim evaluations in case of a worsening of educational quality or poor results.

When the interim evaluation is decided due to shortcomings or a decline in the education provided, and the following situations persist:

  • The report is sent to the general council / body that oversees the educational establishment, which must respond to it within 30 days;
  • IGEC will appoint an education inspector, or an external expert, who will accompany the school head for a period of six months. After this, if IGEC concludes that the school leadership is incapable of dealing with the shortcomings or decline in the educational service provided, it will inform the general council or governing body of the educational establishment, as well as the member of the government responsible for education. 

External evaluation of education and training provision for young people

Considering the extension of dual certification provision for young people, particularly in public upper secondary schools, which now involves 140,000 pupils (around 50 % of learners attending upper-secondary education), it became necessary to assess the impact of the consolidation of this provision.

Since 2009, external evaluation studies by teams of experts from higher education institutions regularly analyse the following aspects regarding vocational education and training:

  • the results of vocational courses while provision expanded upper-secondary education.
  • the balance and imbalances of the network of vocational courses in vocational schools and in public upper secondary education was being reformed.
  • network organisation mechanisms, considering physical and material resources, pedagogical models, training and vocational guidance teams.
  • the partnerships established by schools with local authorities, enterprises and other institutions.
  • school provision taking into account training and work needs at local level.
  • preliminary results regarding employability and further study.

EQAVET - European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for Vocational Education and Training

Established by Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council, 18 June 2009, the European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for Vocational Education and Training (EQAVET) is designed to improve vocational education and training in Europe by providing authorities with common quality management tools, in line with national legislation and practice. 

National Model – QNQ level 4

The national approach to quality assurance focusses on VET quality and improvement. The model is applicable to all Level 4 VET provision of National Qualifications Framework (Quadro Nacional de Qualificações - QNQ), regardless of their type, safeguarding future extension of implementation to different types of VET provision and providers.

Considering VET providers’ characteristics at national level, the model emphasises aspects considered key to continuous improvement of VET quality:

  • the quality cycle and its phases applied to management practices: planning; implementation; review; evaluation.
  • quality criteria principles, which guide management practices in each phase of the cycle:

1. strategic vision and visibility of processes and results in VET management.

2. involvement of internal and external stakeholders.

3. continuous improvement of VET using selected indicators.

4. use of the four phases of the quality cycle: planning, implementation, review, evaluation.

  • The EQAVET compliance verification criteria - verification of VET providers by external experts:

1. strategic vision and visibility of processes and results in VET management.

2. involvement of internal and external stakeholders.

3. continuous improvement of VET using selected indicators.

4. use of the four stages of the quality cycle: planning, implementation, review, evaluation.

5. institutional dialogue for continuous improvement of VET provision.

6. applying the guarantee cycle and improving the quality of VET provision.

Once the above criteria have been met, according to the results of compliance verification by external experts, ANQEP I.P awards the EQAVET SEAL, which certifies conformity to the EQAVET Framework.

With the awarding of the SEAL, providers continue the improvement process with reference to the EQAVET Framework. Management practices are subject to periodic monitoring and review to ensure SEAL standards and continuous quality improvement.

National context

Currently, only vocational schools are currently obliged to implement quality assurance systems in line with the EQAVET Framework (Decree-Law No 92/2014, 20 June).

ANQEP, I.P. is responsible for promoting, monitoring and supporting the implementation of quality assurance systems of training processes and the results achieved by students in vocational schools, certifying them as EQAVET systems.

The model represents an opportunity to establish a culture of continuous improvement that is strategic for the National Qualification System. As such, the model created by ANQEP, I.P. covers not only vocational schools but also VET providers implementing Level 4 provision, who can apply to this model through voluntary membership.

Currently, the model boasts 174 active experts in EQAVET verification, with 442 EQAVET Seals awarded.