Farewell to the tick box inspector? Ofsted and the changing regime of school inspection in England

Baxter, Jacqueline and Clarke, John (2013). Farewell to the tick box inspector? Ofsted and the changing regime of school inspection in England. Oxford Review of Education, 39(5) pp. 702–718.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2013.846852

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/030549...

Abstract

Since its inception in 1992 Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education), has inspected schools under Section 9 of the Education (Schools) Act 1992; Section 10 of the School Inspections Act 1996; and Section 5 of the Education Act 2005. Pressure on England to improve its system of education has not only emerged from the national need for all schools to serve their pupils well, but has also been prompted by an increasing emphasis on international league tables such as that produced by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). In tables such as The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), England is viewed as underperforming against comparable countries. As a result, Ofsted has introduced what the agency terms to be one of the most stringent and demanding inspection frameworks since its inception. This framework reduces the previous twenty eight inspection judgements to just four, purportedly placing a far greater emphasis on the professional judgement of the inspector and representing a major departure from the ‘tick box’ approach which characterised previous frameworks. This paper examines the paradoxical fate of inspector professional judgement and concludes that whilst this may appear to be a signal a rapprochement between inspectors and teaching profession, there are considerable tensions when professional judgement is considered alongside quality control within a highly complex system. The study concludes that in order that inspection attains credibility as a method by which to govern education, this shift requires a more considered approach to ways in which this professional judgement can be effective within the challenging environment of the English education system.

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