chapter  14
16 Pages

Monitoring on the Basis of School Inspections

He stated: ‘It is not enough for inspection simply to lead to a report; it is necessary now to evaluate in order to bring about improvement... The professional credibility of an inspectorate…comes in large part from demonstrating a positive influence on improvement’. However, a key feature and current issue concerning the processes and development of inspection systems is the relationship between external evaluations – the main function of school inspectorates – and internal evaluations often referred to as school self-evaluation. Osler (2001) argues that external inspection is ‘essential to a healthy education system’ and also that inspection ‘is about ensuring that schools’ self-evaluation does not become self-deception or self-congratulation’. However, in the light of an increasing emphasis on equity and inclusion within some education systems, coupled with many education systems allowing more flexibility and autonomy in decision-making there now appears to be a weight given to school selfevaluation in some countries to enable a broader range of context specific quality criteria to be addressed. Interestingly, there has always been different approaches that can be applied in terms of the overlapping tasks and responsibilities of external and internal evaluations and these vary in different country contexts. For example, in England the new inspection framework (2003) puts a much greater emphasis on school self-evaluation than previously. Validating school self-evaluation is seen as a major part of the inspection process and the nature and extent of inspections are ‘differentiated’ according to the evidence of schools’ success. We will return in detail to the nature and role of internal evaluation and school self-evaluation in subsequent chapters. However, in this chapter the aim is to focus on external evaluations and to review the key features of inspection systems. With this aim we mind, we would argue that broadly there are two crucial elements in the process school inspection. First, what criteria are employed in judging the quality of education; and second how school inspection is implemented. The former concerns the concept of quality of education; the second aspect relates to the methodology used to collect evidence and data about the quality of education and the quality of inspection (see also Standaert, 2000 for a discussion on this topic). It is not surprising that there are indeed a variety of different approaches taken by inspection systems in different countries in terms of the two elements referred to above. This chapter will provide a brief overview of these differences as well as a detailed case study of one particular system in England to illustrate the features and processes of inspection.