The (white) ears of Ofsted: a raciolinguistic perspective on the listening practices of the schools inspectorate

IAN CUSHING, Julia Snell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)
710 Downloads (Pure)


England has had a schools inspectorate since 1839, first in the form of Her Majesty's Inspectorate (HMI), and since 1992, in the form of the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted). The inspectorate, a workforce made up of a majority of white inspectors, conduct regular inspections of all state schools in England, producing reports which comment on various aspects of educational provision, including teachers’ and students’ spoken language. In this article we deploy a raciolinguistic genealogy to examine the listening practices of the inspectorate, drawing on historical inspection reports generated from archival work, inspectorate language policy, and a large corpus of contemporary reports. We show how raciolinguistic ideologies are deeply embedded into the sociopolitical culture of the inspectorate, and how these ideologies translate into systems of sonic surveillance in which the nonstandardised language practices of students and teachers are heard as impoverished, deficient, and unsuitable for school. (Raciolinguistics, schools, language policing, standardised English, Ofsted, England, social class, ideology)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
JournalLanguage in Society
Early online date18 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • raciolinguistics
  • schools
  • language policing
  • standardised English
  • Ofsted
  • England
  • ideology

Research Centres

  • International Centre on Racism


Dive into the research topics of 'The (white) ears of Ofsted: a raciolinguistic perspective on the listening practices of the schools inspectorate'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this