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First organise the party

The Inspectors Call: A Guide to Managing the School Inspection Week. By Jim Donnelly. Folens; Pounds 49.95

As the cardinal in Monty Python triumphantly proclaimed: "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" But everybody ought to expect OFSTED. And there the difference ends, you might feel, particularly if you are facing a visitation. Many of us, of course, are old hands by now, but there are still plenty of schools awaiting their first interrogation.

If you have a local authority that still makes helping you to prepare for the Office for Standards in Education a priority - and has the capacity to deliver the required advice - you are indeed fortunate. If you are on your own, and bewildered by the proliferation of material on offer, you could do worse than invest in this training pack.

The same publisher also has a pack designed to help you prepare the whole school for inspection and one providing a strategy for following up an inspection. Jim Donnelly's avowed aim is to deal with the inspection week itself, and the immediate follow-up period.

The price might seem a lot for 120 pages, but they may be copied free for use within your institution and many are good training materials. When you look at the costs of external in-service training or consider the additional income that a "good OFSTED" could bring, you may well feel that this is a bargain.

Donnelly takes you from the initial contact with the registered inspector (make sure your office staff know he or she will be ringing) through the pre-inspection visit (have your own agenda ready), the statutory meetings, the hectic week itself, and the business of the ensuring that the inspection report is as accurate as it can be, to the creation of the action plan.

Always the emphasis is - quite rightly - on clarifying for everybody exactly what to expect. Indeed, "OFSTED survivors" might feel that the material is reminiscent of the university of the Third Age women-only course on ex-ova oral extraction. But the admirable aim is to avoid any unpleasant surprises which might "throw" people.

Some of the training activities seem a little contrived. Is it really necessary for all staff, teaching and non-teaching, to spend even 10 minutes establishing the agenda for the meeting with the registered inspector. Donnelly's draft agenda actually seems to be the only feasible one. And is it really necessary to devise a list of teaching staff questions for the same person? Not in any of the schools that I know.

But these are quibbles. So comprehensive is the coverage that even if you do not work through every activity you will become aware of the relevant issues. Donnelly even thinks to mention the post-inspection party. Someone needs to find time to organise this, though you could just post a notice: "OFSTED party - usual place."

* The writer is headteacher of South Manchester High School

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