School inspections: what happens next?

Geoffrey Penzer

The purpose of this paper is to consider the question: ‘How are inspection findings expected to improve schools?’ in education systems with different inspection regimes.

We have assembled and compared information about how the outcomes of an inspection are intended to influence and improve educational performance in a range of countries, considering questions such as What are the legislative requirements?, how are they enforced?, who is responsible? and in what ways do these then influence change in educational practice and policy making?
The term ‘school inspection’ has different meanings in different countries. For the purposes of this report we use it to mean ‘an evaluation of the effectiveness of a school with a significant component that involves external inspectors’ (i.e. it is not only, though it may be partly, a self evaluation). We do not include the evaluation of the performance of individual named teachers within this definition (this being the realm of staff appraisal).

We have considered the post-inspection arrangements in 17 countries. One of them (Germany) operates state-based inspection regimes, with variations in practice between them. Most are in Europe, and we have relied heavily for information about them on the Standing International Conference of Inspectorates (SICI) Blue Book.1 Inspection is less widespread in other parts of the world (such as North America) where educational evaluation is more closely tied to the results of student tests. In Australia, school accountability is a state-level function and there are different arrangements, but in general they are currently based on school self-review with, if necessary, the support of an Education Officer.