And after the visit, there's the blues

Although there is little likelihood of any immediate post-election reform to the school inspection system, there are pressures for change

Inspection often turns out to be a more positive experience than headteachers fear it will be. It is the aftermath that many of them could do without.

Within 40 working days of receiving the registered inspectors' report, a school's governors are supposed to produce a plan specifying how the school will address the key issues for action that the inspection has identified.

But in practice this responsibility is very often shouldered by the heads, particularly in primary schools. And, as a new study by the National Foundation for Educational Research shows, they often feel that they do not get enough expert help with the drafting or implementation of the plan.

The survey of 200 schools carried out by Karen Maychell and Shalini Pathak revealed that 41 per cent of the primary heads and 20 per cent of their secondary colleagues had experienced difficulties in drawing up the plan. "Many headteachers felt they had been left with insufficient advice, support, training and resources to tackle all the key issues," the researchers say.

Ninety per cent of the heads found that the oral feedback from the inspectors was useful for planning purposes. The same percentage also regarded the main written report as useful. But some were frustrated that OFSTED inspectors were not able to advise them on how to tackle the issues their report had highlighted. Some schools were able to turn to their LEAs or external consultants for help. But others could not afford this service.

"A second, related issue is the need for other resources, apart from in-service training, to support change in schools," the researchers say. "A general lack of time, compounded by inadequate supply cover and limited resources, was also an important factor hindering the implementation process."

Despite these problems, all the schools in the study had begun to put their action plan into practice within six months to a year of the inspection. Most had addressed half of the key issues identified.

But it appears that secondary schools which have had complimentary inspection reports are the ones most likely to drag their heels. "It might have been expected that a report perceived as positive would be more encouraging, " the researchers say. "One explanation for this may be a degree of complacency brought about by having a favourable report."

Planning for action. Part 1: A survey of schools' post-inspection action planning by Karen Maychell and Shalini Pathak, Pounds 5 (incl pp), from the National Foundation for Educational Research, The Mere, Upton Park, Slough, Berkshire SL1 2DQ.

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