School inspections - international literature review

School inspections - international literature review

Client: CfBT Education Trust | NFER Contact: Peter Rudd

This project is a collaborative study between the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and CfBT Education Trust, with the aim of providing an up-to-date international literature of inspection systems. With school decentralisation becoming increasingly widespread internationally, especially as regards staff and resource management or even educational practice in general, school inspection systems are assuming key importance in ensuring quality provision for all.

This research will focus on inspection practices in a range of countries with developed education systems. Through a review of international literature, the research will look at the training of inspectors, different inspection methodologies, the impact inspection has on schools and stakeholders, and how inspection findings are used to establish benchmarks and raise expectations.

Research questions

The aim of this project is to produce an authoritative survey of existing literature relating to the impact on school improvement of school inspection practice in a range of countries with developed education systems. The project will incorporate a general literature review of school inspection internationally, covering arrangements in a wide variety of countries. It will build on this initial survey by focusing in more detail on a smaller number of countries, examining issues identified as particularly significant. The more detailed study will describe, analyse and compare recent developments in school inspection in England, Scotland, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand.

Thus there are two key research questions for this project.

  • What are the similarities and differences between the inspection ‘systems’ of the countries featured?
  • What can be learned from the examination of these differences, and how might they inform the shape of future inspection processes?

Impact and outcomes

A detailed report, reviewing the international literature, will be produced at the end of February 2008. CfBT Education Trust has also produced a full dissemination plan which includes the identification of possible conference presentations and journal articles. CfBT and NFER will look for further dissemination possibilities, including use of the media, as the project progresses.

Research design and methods

The two organisations will work in collaboration to complete this international literature review. NFER’s methodological input will occur in two consecutive phases shown below.

  • The draft of the first chapter of the international literature review
    Summarising recent developments in some major school inspection systems, this is to be a systematic, thematic comparison of inspection systems, based primarily on the six countries identified above, but also drawing on other international examples as appropriate.
  • Advice and input to other chapters
    NFER will also support CfBT colleagues writing subsequent chapters of the review. These will include chapters broadly relating to the ‘recipients’ or outcomes of inspection, recruitment and training for inspectors, inspection processes and methodology, and the position of inspections within education systems.

NFER will also advise and contribute to the full draft report, as deemed appropriate by CfBT.


The report will be of use to all those interested in educational inspection, evaluation and accountability. The relevant audiences will include researchers, inspectors, inspection service providers, local authorities and school managers. Presentations based upon the report will be appropriate for any of the major educational research conferences, including the British Educational Research Association annual conference.

Time scale: October 2007 - February 2008

NFER Project Code: LII

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