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An Inspector writes

In any discussion of inspection people always seem to talk knowingly about the importance of planning, but never say just what they mean by it. What exactly will OFSTED look for in terms of planning?

I think OFSTED would regard a development plan as essential to an effective school: Such a plan, usually based on an analysis of existing curriculum provision, which would set out the school's main educational objectives in an order of priority. It would include detailed information for the year ahead and broad objectives for the following two years. The SDP will derive partly from individual plans drawn up by subject co-ordinators.

The detailed information about current intentions and plans - sometimes amplified in separate action plans - would define specific targets and related tasks, the allocation of responsibilities, timescales, costings, resource implications (both in terms of personnel and of materials and equipment), and procedures for monitoring progress and evaluating the effectiveness of outcomes.

The essential thrust of any SDP is educational - that is, the achievement of the most effective teaching and learning possible. But if that is to be managed then a school has to be concerned with other issues: institutional efficiency, the management and professional development of staff, the effective use of finance and resources, the assessment of learning, the monitoring of objectives, initiatives and achievement all in turn calling for planning in their own right: Curricular elements

In order to manage the national curriculum, schools are increasingly organising their curriculum planning at three levels.

* Long-term planning seeks to set up a broad framework of provision for each year of each key stage. In effect, this provides schools with a map of the experiences children will encounter in all the main areas of the curriculum across their entire primary life. In an undertaking as ambitious as this, some schools' planning may still be at a stage where subject time allocations, and broad frameworks of concepts, skills, knowledge and content are still being worked out.

* Medium-term planning related to termly or half-termly provision aims to translate the broad subject maps into more detailed units of work and learning for each year.

* Short-term planning is about teachers' weekly and daily planning, designed to achieve day-to-day learning for the pupils. Of necessity, it will be succinct, will indicate the work the children are daily engaged in, how that links to the national curriculum, the resources required, the role played by the teacher in specific lessons, how teaching support is utilised, the provision for differentiation and special needs, and what assessment might take place. It is desirable, as far as possible, to make short-term planning for the inspection week available to inspectors.

Schools will also provide evidence of planning to cater for children with special needs.

Financial planning

This needs to demonstrate good housekeeping in the best sense, not merely that the budget balances, but that money has been well spent, and where possible and necessary judiciously saved. Financial planning should show, as far as possible: * how the budget is designed to meet SDP objectives.

* costings for all activities, with allocations of responsibilities for delivery, management and monitoring.

* how the procedures for efficient financial control set out in OFSTED's document Keeping your Balance will be kept in relation to projects.

* how a school aims to determine whether value for money has been achieved: how it will establish whether particular decisions have proved worthwhile and profitable in the context of total-school needs.

School management and development

Planning for the management, deployment and professional development of staff will ideally give some indication of: * how teaching and non-teaching staff are deployed in a way which makes the best use of expertise and experience.

* how the staffing structure and allocation of responsibilities reflect the school's overall aims and objectives and curriculum priorities.

* whether teachers have adequate non-teaching time to carry out identified responsibilities.

* how arrangements for staff development are meeting the needs of individuals and the school as a whole.

Assessment and recording

Planning for assessment and recording will be concerned with arrangements for providing: * "summative" assessment that measures and records children's achievement; * "formative", ongoing assessment to underpin future planning; * diagnostic assessment to identify and analyse learning difficulties.

Most schools will be planning for these main areas and may do so in ways personal to them to suit their particular circumstances. Additionally, they may wish to show inspectors planning for special school initiatives.

Bill Laar is a registered inspector. Write to him co The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY.

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