UCL Discovery
UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Inspection Across the UK: how the four nations intend to contribute to school improvement

Munoz Chereau, B; Ehren, M; (2021) Inspection Across the UK: how the four nations intend to contribute to school improvement. Edge Foundation: London. Green open access

[thumbnail of Inspectionacross-the-UK-report-FINAL.pdf]
Inspectionacross-the-UK-report-FINAL.pdf - Published Version

Download (633kB) | Preview


Exploring and comparing the inspection regimes in the four nations of the UK is timely because whilst each country has its own system, new inspection frameworks have been recently introduced in England and will shortly be implemented in other nations such as Wales. Hence, this study critically examines how and under what conditions longstanding and new inspection regimes intend to lead to school improvement. The research questions that guided the study included: 1. What is the theory of change of each of the four inspectorates of education in the four nations of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (NI))? 2. What are stakeholders’ views of, and experiences with, inspections? The methodology comprised of three phases. Phase 1 reconstructed the programme theory of the inspection framework of each inspectorate of education (Ofsted in England, The Education Training Inspectorate (ETI) in Northern Ireland, Education Scotland (ES) in Scotland and Estyn in Wales) through the analysis of 60 policy documents. Phase 2 validated Phase 1 through engagement with 12 experts. Phase 3 explored the views of, and experiences with, inspections through fieldwork (24 survey and 7 semi-structured interviews) with 31 stakeholders (headteachers, governors, local authority school improvement staff and teachers).The findings capture the similarities and differences across the four inspection frameworks in the UK. The analysis of the four programme theories revealed substantive differences between school inspection regimes across the UK. This study found some convergence in the UK inspectorates’ intended mechanisms or engines through which inspections are supposed to contribute to school improvement, but mostly divergences not only in the mechanisms, but also intended effects (or desired aims) at both the school and system levels. Regarding the system level intended effects, while England promotes social mobility and allows young people to reach their potential, the other regimes put explicit emphasis on all learners or equity: NI fosters an inclusive learning environment where all learners have access to high quality provision; Scotland’s inspection framework aims to promote the highest standards of learning leading to better outcomes for all learners; and Wales aims to create the conditions to support all learners to achieve high standards and strong levels of wellbeing. When school-level intended effects are considered, each inspectorate has a different combination of quality indicators leading to the ‘good’ or above judgement of schools in their nations. The key similarities were that all inspectorates judge school performance focusing on the quality of education/provision/teaching and learning, as well as leadership and management, however with varied emphasis such as Scotland’s ‘leadership of change’. The key difference is the extent to which other indicators are considered (beyond academic performance and leadership) by inspectorates when judging school performance. For example: Scotland’s ‘success and achievement’ considers the progress in raising attainment and achievement by ensuring at the same time wellbeing, equality, and inclusion. Wales focuses explicitly on wellbeing. Wales and NI put a special emphasis on care and support. England addresses ‘personal development’, ‘behaviour and attitudes,’ and is the only inspectorate that explicitly aims to reduce the unintended consequences of inspections, such as gaming and off-rolling. Although every nation wants to strike the right balance between external evaluation and self-evaluation to ultimately enhance school improvement through inspection, there are also clear differences in the intended mechanisms (or how) to improve schools across the UK. We found that the main similarities to support school improvement were: Giving feedback through inspection in England, Wales, and NI Promoting school self-evaluation in Scotland, Wales, and NI Enhancing professional dialogue/in-depth professional discussions/school self-reflection culture in Scotland and NI The main differences in how inspectorates are expected to support school improvement were: Preventing bad practice from becoming entrenched in England Promoting openness and transparency about the processes and instruments in NI Focusing on the mechanisms (or engines) that the inspectorates implement in order to improve the system level, the main similarities were: Providing system level feedback to inform national policy planning in the four nations Delivering public accountability/assurance and report to different stakeholders (i.e. parents) in the four nations Building capacity by including practitioners in inspection teams in England, Scotland and Wales Enhancing system-wide learning from good practice in England and Wales The main differences in how inspectorates expect to support system level improvement were: Promoting collective engagement, learning and collaboration in Scotland Reducing regulatory burdens in England The main findings from the fieldwork conducted with 31 stakeholders (headteachers, governors, LA, school improvement staff and teachers) showed: More compliance than innovation: Stakeholders in the four nations recognised that inspections encouraged more compliance than innovation. They believed that going beyond inspection frameworks held little value, especially when doing so risked taking away time from the quality of education provision/teaching and learning. They prioritised their resources and actions according to the hierarchy communicated through the frameworks, so the main sections were interpreted as areas of policy enforcement, whereas statements (communicated for example in bullet points), were interpreted as less relevant. Pervasive inspection readiness: The four UK inspection frameworks were effectively enacted by stakeholders to such an extent that they were pervasive in the sense that they constrained pedagogical and curriculum innovations beyond the framework. Examples of ‘inspection readiness’ abounded. A two-way ‘contract’ Stakeholders interpreted inspection frameworks as a two-way ‘contract,’ in the sense that they guided the micropolitics of schools, but also applied them to evaluate inspectorates, inspectors, and inspections. Negative experiences tended to be associated with inspectors departing from the inspection framework to follow their own agenda, and vice versa. A gap remains between how inspectorates intend to improve schools, and the way stakeholders interpret frameworks and experience inspections.

Type: Report
Title: Inspection Across the UK: how the four nations intend to contribute to school improvement
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.edge.co.uk/research/projects/research-...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: School inspection, school improvement, theory of action, UK education, Ofsted, Estyn, Education Scotland, Education Training Inspectorate
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10124721
Downloads since deposit
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item