Founded in 1801, the Netherlands’ Inspectorate of Education is one of the oldest state Inspectorates of Education. Nowadays, the Inspectorate uses a system of risk-analysis to decide which schools should be inspected and which schools may be trusted to deliver good quality education.
- The Dutch educational system
- The inspection process of the Dutch Inspectorate of Education
- Inspection of schools by the Dutch Inspectorate of Education
- stimulates schools and educational institutions to maintain and improve the quality of education they offer;
- assesses the quality of education of the individual educational institutes and the education system as a whole in the Netherlands and its developments;
- communicates in an accessible way with all its target groups and stakeholders;
- reports in public.
The mission of the Inspectorate for childcare and toddler playgrounds is to stimulate municipalities to increase the quality of these facilities or to support the maintenance of high quality facilities by collecting information and by judging how municipalities perform their duties and – if necessary – make interventions.
How the Inspectorate works
On an annual basis, the Inspectorate collects and analyses information on possible risks in all schools. The results of the risk analysis indicate whether a school needs to be investigated more extensively, or whether the school can be trusted to perform adequately during the next year. If the analysis does not reveal any risks, the Inspectorate has sufficient trust in the quality of the education provided to qualify the school for the so-called basic inspection programme. In case a school performs inadequately, the Inspectorate states which shortcomings should be improved and subsequently monitors these improvements.
During the past twenty years, two trends can be distinguished in the field of education in the Netherlands. On the one hand there is a growing demand for insight into educational standards and performance; on the other hand there is a trend towards reducing national regulations and strengthening the responsibility of educational institutions for their own policy and practice.
Act on the Inspectorate of Education
The legal basis for the Inspectorate of Education is the Act on the Inspectorate of Education (Dutch acronym: WOT) which became effective in September 2002. In this law, the discussion about the balance between the two trends has been elaborated. The general formula in the WOT for this balance is: ‘The role of the Inspectorate is to evaluate and to stimulate the quality of education and to inform all parties concerned on the quality of education in general and in the individual institutes.’
The WOT has consequences for the way in which the Inspectorate monitors schools. The responsibility for the quality of education lies in first instance with the school itself. The school decides on objectives (within the national framework), organisation, methods, materials and pedagogy and on the ways in which quality is assessed, evaluated and improved. The WOT obliges the Inspectorate to conduct a periodical assessment of the quality of each educational institution.
Schools that perform well are granted a light inspection regime (the so-called ‘basic arrangement’). Schools that do not comply with national regulations are called to account. In addition, the Inspectorate points out to the school leadership in what respects quality improvements can be achieved. If a school shows serious weaknesses the Inspectorate imposes a more intensive supervision regime and – eventually – reports to the Minister of Education about the school. The WOT states some or all nine aspects of quality on which the Inspectorate has to report about each school, but leaves it to the Inspectorate to elaborate these into indicators for quality. The law obliges the Inspectorate to do that in mutual agreement with the education division. Amongst others, the annual report which schools are legally obliged to produce is an important input for the external evaluation by the Inspectorate.
There are no important differences in the inspection regimes for public schools and schools controlled by private boards (65%). Checking compliance with rules and regulations is always part of an inspection visit, in addition to the evaluation of quality.
The Inspectorate has no advisory or counselling tasks with respect to schools; schools are provided with a budget they can use for hiring advisors and other support staff from regional or national agencies. In case pupils, parents, teachers or other stakeholders have complaints, they should address these to the complaints commission that schools are legally obliged to have. The Inspectorate only has a role when complaints cannot be solved by the complaints commission. Besides that, the Inspectorate uses complaints as inputs in risk based inspection.
Since 1998 the Inspectorate’s reports on individual schools, which were formerly exclusively provided to the school itself and to the Minister, have been made public.
All school reports are now available on the website of the Inspectorate for public consultation.
By doing this, the Inspectorate publicly supplies information on the quality of schools. The Inspectorate aims to stimulate educational institutions to maintain and improve their quality. The Inspectorate provides for school managers, policymakers and all other parties involved reliable information on the quality of individual educational institutes including their role in the regional chain of youth provisions. They may also use this information as a basis for policy making and management.
The Inspectorate also conducts so-called thematic inspections: in a sample of schools a certain topic or subject is inspected using a specific framework of indicators and criteria. These inspections also result in public reports.
Each year the Inspectorate publishes a report on the state of education in the Netherlands. This report is sent directly to parliament and to the Minister of education and generally attracts large media attention.
The Inspectorate has always had extensive and extended international contacts and participates in many cooperation projects and networks, including SICI.