The vocabulary of inspection

Clarke, John and Lindgren, Joakim (2014). The vocabulary of inspection. In: Grek, Sotiria and Lindgren, Joakim eds. Governing by Inspection. Studies in European Education. London: Routledge, pp. 137–158.



This chapter begins from the proposition that ‘words matter’. This brief claim condenses a variety of developments in the social sciences, and the policy studies field, that point to the ways in which words-language-discourse play an active role in bringing social realities into being, rather than just reflecting an existing reality (Fairclough 2003; Fischer 2003; Marston 2004). Studying school inspection makes diverse forms of ‘text and talk’ visible: policy documents, organisational statements, inspection reports, media accounts and interview materials from the inspectors and inspected. Here we are going to concentrate on how inspection is publicly represented, centred on how inspectorates account for themselves (Scott and Lyman 1968; see also Boltanski and Thévenot 2006, on justification). In doing so, we draw on documentary sources from the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen, SSI) and Ofsted in England. Analysing such sources enables us to draw out some significant patterns of difference and similarity.

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