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Beauty of warts-and-all

When inspectors called last July, headteacher Malcolm Noble found that instead of having to put pressure on staff, he had his work cut out to calm them down.

"I put my hand up, I am one of those heads who would find lots of things for people to do ahead of an inspection but, if anything, I needed to tell people to back off a bit," he said.

His staff's pride in their work at the 2,200-pupil Bexleyheath secondary school in south-east London drove them to put in the extra hours ahead of the inspection in September which it passed.

But Mr Noble hopes that the new warts-and-all inspections will prevent staff feeling they have to rack up the hours in evenings and weekends to show off their school in its best light.

"This will have a significant effect in reducing the bureaucratic pressures in schools," he says.

He argues it will also reduce the chance of a post-inspection slip in standards when tired teachers pause for breath after weeks of intensive preparation.

Bexleyheath's inspection, its first for five-and-a-half years, lasted for five days and involved 21 inspectors, a scale unlikely to be repeated under the proposed framework.

Mr Noble believes the new lighter touch, with more stress on self-evaluation will give heads and governors a clearer idea of where they stand.

"Staff will need training on how to make best use of self-evaluation but if this is done properly it will have benefits.

"It will either show schools that their annual self-evaluation is correct and that they are working on the right issues or show their self-evaluation is not right and the inspectors will be back to check in more detail," he said.

"Who can really complain about being inspected once every three years?"

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