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Hang Ups

Who's afraid of the big, bad Ofsted Inspector? No-body should be, I used to tell my teacher friends. And if they didn't have the good sense either to change the subject quickly or to sock me in the jaw, I'd regale them in that insufferably smug way ex-teachers do with tales of the inspections I've endured.

"HMI? Local authority advisers? I've 'ad 'em all in the back of me class. And that's not the 'alf of it, chum. I've had headteachers, busy-body governors, professors of education, students, sociologists, do-gooders, foreign delegations on fact-finding missions and once a bull mastiff." It's true! A nasty piece of work that stood in a puddle of its own saliva, growling ominously every time I dared open my mouth. It was only pacified by a seat next to the sweet little girl who owned it, and a regular supply of her banana and peanut-butter sandwiches.

If I had been able to withstand all these uninvited guests, I couldn't see why intelligent adults should lose a moment's sleep at the prospect of a minibus of Ofsted snoopers pulling up in the school yard. That was until I read Reviewing IT, a pack produced jointly by the National Council for Educational Technology (NCET) and the National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education (NAACE). What makes it particularly useful is that it has been written by practising school inspectors who are able to spell out for schools in gruesome detail, exactly what they are looking for when they visit.

The pack should be compulsory reading for all ex-teachers shocking evidence that things ain't what they used to be. The inspectors admit that their advice is a "counsel of perfection", but I still can't see the point of setting so many unattainable goals. It's a bit like telling overworked parish priests that they should aim at eradicating original sin or Tory party spin doctors that they should make government education policy appear successful.

There might be schools somewhere (in Cloud Cuckoo Land, for instance) that can boast each of the 80 "quality indicators" that the inspectors hope to find on a visit. There must be others, however, where teachers are going to read through the lists and want to give up in despair. Do your lessons which include the use of IT "exhibit adequate differentiation such that tasks set match the needs and abilities of pupils"? Do you have an assessment scheme that facilitates "the recording of pupils' progress across all aspects of IT capability"? Are you in a school where "all routes through the curriculum give sufficient access to IT, adequate chances to use it and challenge in the tasks undertaken"? Are all staff "clear about their individual contributions to, and responsibility for, the operation of the school's IT policy"? Does this sort of question make you more or less keen to win the jackpot on this week's lottery?

I genuinely have nothing but admiration for teachers who are somehow able to cope with the pressure of measuring up to these standards and, at the same time, have to live in the real world of difficult children, dodgy networks and naff software. But if the inspectors are about to call, this pack will prove indispensable not only for IT co-ordinators but also for staff (and surely, it's all of them) who play (or are supposed to play) their part in delivering IT across the curriculum. As well as the quality indicators, there is plenty of advice, tips, planning strategies and suchlike to help identify the weaknesses, and to set about remedying them. A final inspection checklist enables teachers to ensure that everything is tickety-boo on the day of judgement.

Then all they have to do is take a deep breath and greet the inspector with a confident smile or, failing that, with a banana and peanut-butter sandwich.

Reviewing IT (Pounds 15), NCET, Milburn Hill Road, Science Park, Coventry CV4 7JJ.

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