Managing the school's inspectorate : independent team practices and outcomes
This study is about the managemenot f `independent'i nspections of schoolsb y teams
in England during the period September 1993-7. The central research problem is seen as the
absence of a managerial focus by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) on the
work of teams -a management gap that both triggers and lies at the core of the study. The
investigation is shaped by four initial research questions, namely:
" How can contractors for OFSTED arrange their teams to encourage inspectors to
manage and operate in inspections so as to ensure consistency of practice?
" What factors influence inspection team practices?
" What are the factors affecting the actions of contractors in supporting the
practices of inspection teams?
" How do teams develop?
The study describes and explores the extent to which the roles and responsibilities of
different players within the new inspection system are identified, organised to manage it most
effectively, and operate interdependently. The literature is reviewed against a discussion of
the legislative background in the Education (Schools) Act 1992 which led to the creation of
OFSTED. This considers the nature of teams, of managing teams, of professionals and of
professional teams offering contracted services within the public sector. This literature is
reviewedi n turn in the light of that on the developingn otion of new public managementw, ith
its emphasis on contracting as a prominent means of service delivery.
Drawing on the literature concerning the work of teams, the management of public
services and OFSTED, a research design was developed using multiple methods matching the
characteristics of the sites for the research. Two major phases of the research took place -
locally and nationally based. The local phase included 155 registered inspectors in responding
to a survey that highlighted the practice and performances of the independent teams involved.
A series of interviews also took place with registered inspectors, contractors and ex-HMI to
reflect on thesep rocessest,h e outcomesa nd the influences on them.
The national phase comprised two elements: surveys involving 72 contractors and
595 inspectors and desk-based analysis of OFSTED's Education Information System (EIS),
access to which was gained during the research process. Through EIS, data related to 2000
inspections was analysed and samples of reports and the evidence which supports them were
examined; conclusions were drawn about the information, some of which was previously
The implementation of this design was supported by the researcher's range of insider
roles within the Schools Inspection community. The insider/researcherr ole literature is thus
also reviewed and critiqued.
Findings confirmed the extent to which there was neglect or confusion concerning the
managerial needs of inspection teams. Inconsistencies evident from the assumptions held
about how inspection teams are managed were identified. Disjunction between local and
national findings were exposedw here evident. The findings also emphasesth e limitations of
the literature, particularly the extent of theory which support understanding of `short-life'
As the system for independent inspections of schools was at an early stage in relation
to the history of the inspectorate as a whole, and this study based primarily on the first cycle
of inspections, these conclusions are necessarily tentative. Proposals for future research as
well as suggestions for improving the management of inspections are made. Where
appropriate the findings are related to contracted out teams operating in other public services