Working Knowledge: governing by inspection in England and Scotland

Baxter, Jacqueline and Ozga, Jenny (2013). Working Knowledge: governing by inspection in England and Scotland. In: BERA Conference 2013 Creativity and Innovation in Educational Research, 3-6 Sep 2013, Istanbul.


This paper is concerned with the relationship between knowledge and governing, as revealed by our current research on the work of the inspectorates of schools in England and Scotland. It is informed by our working hypothesis that, as governing has changed to become more networked, less bureaucratic, more flexible and interrelated, so too has knowledge changed, moving from its traditional construction and location in disciplinary silos into a more problem-based form, involving new actors in its production; working in new ways. We suggest that these changes have the effect of reconstituting knowledge as a policy-forming, rather than a policy-informing, activity (Issakyan et al 2008, Ozga et al 2010), and that attention to the shifting forms of knowledge and knowledge production are informative in enabling better understanding of the contemporary governing of education. In examining the role of knowledge in the authority claims of the inspectorate, we draw on the work of Freeman and Sturdy (2008) and take knowledge to be socially constructed, identifying its workings in inspection in relation to three elements-the enactment of knowledge (for example in the processes of knowledge production such as observation of teaching), the embodiment of knowledge (for example in the self-presentation and ‘performance’ of the inspectorial identity), and its encoding (for example in Ofsted’s frameworks or HMIE’s HGIOS). We shall attempt to illustrate this argument in the remainder of the paper, through examination of the work done by and in the processes of knowledge production in the school inspectorates of England and Scotland. The paper will first set out briefly some information about the research project on which this paper draws, then it will discuss, in sequence, the two inspectorates in terms of their work in the processes of knowledge production before drawing some provisional conclusions.

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