Choosing Positions: living the contradictions of OFSTED

Woods, Peter and Jeffrey, Bob (1998). Choosing Positions: living the contradictions of OFSTED. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 19(4) pp. 547–570.



A new system of schools' inspection, under the 'Office for Standards in Education'(OFSTED), was set up in 1992. Nominally independent, it was appointed within the frame of the general restructuring of public institutions and of the government's marketization and managerialization of the education system in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As the operations of OFSTED bear directly on inspectors and teachers, it provides good opportunities to study the effects on them of restructuring and how they cope with the powers of the slate. The values behind the new reforms contrast sharply with the prevailing child-centred discourse preferred by primary school teachers. Inspectors, in the actual execution of inspections, represented themselves as moderating their approach in a kind of humanistic managerialism which apparently goes some way to meeting the teachers' position. However, this is not how the inspections were experienced by the teachers. They were conscious of a deep and damaging value clash in the areas of knowledge, pedagogy, assessment and culture. Their lives, selves and work became colonized by the OFSTED process. At the more traumatic moments, they felt deprofessionalized. Like the inspectors, however, they devised their own coping strategies, involving both distancing and engagement, staging performances and various other strategical measures. Both inspectors and teachers avail themselves of a range of discourses in negotiating personal ways through structural constraints. However, their solutions are boundaried in their own life worlds rather than meeting across them in common purpose. They are personal, rather than structural, solutions.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions