The inspection of schools and governing bodies of schools

“What is being done right? What could be done better? And what needs to be done better?” This is perhaps the best way to sum up the Dutch regime of school inspections starting in August 2017. The 2017 Inspection Frameworks for each sector describe our new way of working and what factors we will be assessing (the assessment framework).

Four basic principles

Essentially, the basic principles of the new regime are as follows.

  1. Basic quality guarantee. The Inspectorate will continue to assure the quality of educational provision in the Netherlands. Governing bodies and their schools are required to comply with the prescribed statutory standards for quality of education, quality assurance and financial management.
  2. Encouraging improvement. We wish to actively promote a culture of improvement at schools and in their governing bodies, encouraging them to raise the quality of all aspects of their provision.
  3. Straightforward, bespoke regulation. As far as possible, we want our regulation of schools and governing bodies to facilitate their own ambitions. The school plan plays a key role in achieving this. Common and largely identical inspection frameworks have been compiled for the primary (PO), secondary (SO), special education (SO/VSO) and vocational further education (MBO) sectors, suitable for the very wide range of schools and governing bodies we find ourselves dealing with in practice. This approach simplifies the inspection and regulatory regimes for all sectors, whilst also allowing us to respond effectively to the trend towards multi-sectoral governance in education.
  4. Governor responsibility. Ultimately, the governing body is responsible for the quality and continuity of the education provided by the school(s) operating under its auspices. For this reason, under the new regime we will be inspecting governing bodies as well as schools. Each governing body has its own process for maintaining and improving the quality of educational provision, which we take as our starting point in regulating it. Governing bodies and schools with better processes provide more reliable information about the quality of their education. Having earned our trust in that way, we as an inspectorate can permit them greater freedom of movement. This allows us to regulate with a lighter touch where possible, but a heavier one where necessary.

2017 Inspection Frameworks

In the 2017 Inspection framework, we define five quality areas:

  • (i) educational process
  • (ii) school climate
  • (iii) learning outcomes
  • (iv) quality assurance and ambition 
  • (v) financial management.

This breakdown allows us to answer three fundamental questions about the schooling pupils are receiving:

  • (a) are they learning enough (learning outcomes)?
  • (b) are they being taught well (educational process)?
  • (c) are they safe (school climate)?

Together, our findings in these three areas reveal the overall standard of education the school is providing in the classroom. The other two areas, quality assurance (coupled with ambition) and financial management, reflect quality of provision – by which we mean the school’s performance in these domains combined – and its continuity. We define the overall quality of a school’s educational provision as the aggregate of its performance in all these areas.

Each standard is operationalized. The statutory criteria determine whether a school is judged “Adequate” (Voldoende) or “Inadequate” (Onvoldoende), whilst fulfilment of its own self-defined quality factors - those displayed or aspired to by the governing body – makes the difference between “Adequate” and “Good”.

For more information on the inspection process, please consult the 2017 Inspection Frameworks for each sector. The 2017 Inspection Framework for primary education and The 2017 Inspection Framework for secondary education are available in English.