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Clear decks without jargon

* Preparing Your Pastoral Team for Inspection - A Practical Handbook for TeachersBy Martin Titchmarsh for Hertfordshire Education Services; Pounds 9.5O plus p+p from HES Education Centre, Butterfield Road, Wheathampstead, Herts AL4 8PY

The essential test of a practical book is "does it help?". This one should. It explains the background to inspection, sets out the process and criteria and makes suggestions for good practice.

If one of its unstated aims is to reduce the level of anxiety generated by inspection, then the warning that it contains "a counsel of perfection" and that "it is extremely difficult for any school to achieve this uniform standard of excellence" will be welcomed.

With an A4 spring-bound format, the booklet assumes almost total ignorance about OFSTED inspections and after a brief overview tackles those aspects of inspection with particular implications for pastoral teams.

These are all, of course, "whole-school issues", but pastoral leaders and teachers in their tutor role can expect particularly close attention from inspectors.

Each of the seven issues is tackled in the same way: introduction, definitions, criteria for evaluation, how the work is inspected; and suggestions for good practice.

The effect is to translate "OFSTED-speak" into language and practice which Year heads and their teams can recognise.

They will also appreciate the section which looks at their job, drawing a distinction between management and leadership and setting out both roles and tasks expected of pastoral leaders.

However, the "Cross Curricular Themes" section will probably reinforce their confusion over just where we are on dimensions, skills, themes and elements.

The "Preparation for Inspection Checklist" is a useful measure of present effectiveness which schools can use. Again, headings like "Probably OK but need to check" or "Some attention needed" retain the user-friendly style.

The last section offers suggestions for INSET, but these could be devised just as easily, and probably better, by teachers in their own schools.The area of pastoral care and development is probably the most difficult to inspect because it deals in so many intangibles and as OFSTED's paper on spiritual, moral, social and cultural development recognised, "personal development (is) an erratic, unpredictable, and in many respects long-term phenomenon".

What we know about inspection, of course, is that it is neither erratic nor unpredictable and Martin Titchmarsh clarifies what is involved and gives everyone the chance to achieve "good or very good" accolades.

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