This paper aims to describe and highlight some important continuities and changes in the Swedish school inspection case, with particular emphasis on the justification and use of inspections as an enduring and recurring political instrument to govern education: What roles and functions have been assigned to the inspectorate in all its incarnations, what means of operations have been employed, and how can the continuities as well as the changes be understood? The analysis is based on policy texts, such as government commission reports and bills, as well as on a range of previous research and studies. The theoretical resources aim to account for the dynamic relationship that underlies both drastic as well as more incremental institutional reproduction and change. School inspections were first performed in Sweden as early as the 1860s. Since then, inspections have been carried out by different national and regional agencies, and they have differed in focus, scope, and intensity. School inspection was abolished altogether in the wake of the extensive decentralization reforms of the 1990s, but after being in the political cold for a decade, inspections were reintroduced in 2003. In 2008 a separate agency, the Schools Inspectorate (SI), was formed, intensifying inspection efforts even further. Through gradual as well as more fundamental processes of change, school inspection institutions seem to be readily adaptable to different expectations and solutions as the political context varies. It has remained, at its core, an enduring institution that manages to gain and regain legitimacy; this is amply illustrated by the Swedish case.
2014. Vol. 186, 35-45 p.