Authors: Dr Bernardita Munoz (UCL, IoE) and Professor Melanie Ehren (UCL, IoE)
This research commissioned by Edge and conducted by the Institute of Education, UCL aims to explore the inspection frameworks across the four nations of the UK. This was achieved by reconstructing the theory of change of each of the four inspectorates of education and understanding perceptions of inspectorates and school staff across the four nations. Experts in each of the nations were approached to validate the final findings. Therefore, comparing and reflecting on longstanding inspection regimes’ practices and the latest experiences of Ofsted.
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. This report critically examines how and under what conditions longstanding and new inspection regimes intend to lead to school improvement.
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. 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