Increased emphasis is being given to the importance of inspection and inspectorates as major means of monitoring and evaluating educational and training provision. This can be seen in the changing fortunes of HMI (Lawton and Gordon, 1987). Since the Second World War there had been a move away from that most familiar of HMI activities, the full inspection. During the 1950s and 1960s the influence of HMI was, perhaps, at its lowest point. Indeed, a Select Committee in 1968 recommended that full inspections should cease and the number of HM inspectors be reduced (HMSO, 1968). However, this was the time when the educational consensus which had lasted from the post-war period began increasingly to fall away. The 1970s were marked by an accelerating disquiet about the state of the public education system, by financial crises and cutbacks in education, and by the emergence of educational accountability as a key issue. In this new climate HMI was able to re-establish successfully an influential national role in which, in particular, inspection was central. Not only was the rate of full inspection increased, but the notion of inspection was significantly extended to encompass national surveys of educational provision and expenditure and the assessment of whole LEAs. The importance of HMI and its inspection activities was unequivocally endorsed by the Rayner Committee (DES/WO, 1982), the most recent of the periodic attempts over the years to review the inspectorate’s role. Undoubtedly, the subsequent decision to publish HMI reports on inspections has had the effect of raising the profile of both the
Inspectorate and the process of inspection. It is also significant to note that the current complement of inspectors, just under 500, is greater than in the pre-Rayner period.