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Governing by Inspection

The project explores the role of school inspection in governing complex systems of schooling in three different national settings: England, Scotland and Sweden.
October 2010 - September 2013

Governing by Inspection: School Inspection and Education Governance in Scotland, England and Sweden

This three-year research project (2010-2013), funded by the ESRC and the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) is co-investigated by: John Clarke and Jacqueline Baxter at the Open University (CCIG), by Sotiria Grek at the University of Edinburgh, by Martin Lawn (Centre for Educational Sociology), Jenny Ozga (Oxford University), by Christina Segerholm (UTV) and by Agneta Hult, Joakim Lindgren, Linda Ronnberg at the Umea University.

The project compares the use of school inspection as a form of governing of education in the three systems of Sweden, Scotland and England, in the context of current changes in inspection practices in Europe.

We are investigating tensions between controlling and regulating through technical means like performance data and the rules followed by inspectors in their school assessments, in contrast with using expert knowledge, judgment and persuasion as part of self-regulation. We are mapping the interrelationships of inspection at different system levels and across Sweden, Scotland and England, with a focus on transnational policy learning. We also map inspection processes within local authorities/municipalities and between local policy spaces and schools.

We seek answers to the following research questions:

At the (inter)national/national interface: is there an emergent European Inspection policy and how is it constructed? How do global/European ideas of inspection practice and processes for compulsory schooling enter the three national policy-making spaces? To what extent and through what conduits do European ideas of ‘best practice’ seek to shape or influence national inspection practices? How is the future of Inspection envisaged in European and national policy?

At the (intra) national/local interface: What are the key characteristics of the three national systems of inspection, and to what extent are they divergent or convergent? What forms of knowledge do they prioritise, and what is the relationship between judgment and evidence in these processes? How do they relate to local policymaking

At the (inter)national/local/school interface: How do local inspection processes enter school policy? How are they negotiated? What are the characteristics of inspection processes and what constitutes evidence and judgment in the operation of inspection? At the school level: How do teachers/headteachers experience Inspection processes? What involvement do they have in the construction of the inspection ‘event’? To what extent do these processes shape their work?


Baxter, J. and Clarke,J. (2013) Farewell to The Tick box Inspector ? Ofsted and the changing regime of school inspection in England, Oxford Review of Education (Link)

Baxter,J. (2013) Professional inspector or inspecting professional? Teachers as inspectors in a new regulatory regime for education in England, Cambrdige Journal of Education (Link)

Baxter, J (2014) An independent inspectorate? Addressing the paradoxes of educational inspection in 2013 , School Leadership and Management (Link)

Grek, S., & Lindgren, J. (Eds.). (2014). Governing by Inspection. London: Routledge. (Link)



Learn more about the research programme: Publics