The Role of External Inspection in the Public Services: The Case of the UK Training Market
45 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2016
Date Written: 2008
We consider two interpretations of the role of external inspection in the public services, in the context of publicly funded work-based training programmes for young people. The first is that inspection provides substantive information to buyers concerning training quality, thereby improving efficiency in the ‘training market’. The second is that it provides procedurally-oriented reassurance concerning service quality to government and the public, irrespective of substantive quality. Evidence is drawn from the inspection procedures and reports of the Adult Learning Inspectorate between 2001 and 2005. The inspectors rated training providers on various attributes, some clearly procedural, others potentially substantive. We find that while inspectors took both procedural and substantive dimensions of training into account in judging the quality of a provider’s services, they attached considerably more weight to procedural than to substantive attributes. In particular, they undervalued the trainee completion rate, despite its potential association with the substantive quality of training and the priority that the government attaches to raising it. These findings are interpreted as evidence of limited validity in inspection findings, which do little to resolve information asymmetries in the UK training market.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation