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An Inspector Writes

Q: What would Office for Standards in Education inspectors look for in a staff handbook?

A: I'm not sure that inspectors would even expect to find a staff handbook or have pre-conceived notions about its contents. Some schools now seem to do without one because the increasing amount of arcane and lengthy information that the education business generates often calls for its own discrete categories, rather than inclusion in a general compendium. Examples of this are special educational needs provision or health and safety arrangements, now too extensive and complex to be dealt with by a few pages in a staff handbook.

However, I think there is value in drawing together certain advice about day- to-day life in school, designed to be helpful and supportive to teachers - that is probably what inspectors might hope to find rather than any officially prescribed items.

What therefore might go in? Consider some of the following: school aims; arrangements for discipline; office routines; the organisation of the school day; registration; new admissions; play and lunch times including the dreaded wet days; accidents, illness and the treatment of mishaps; staff meetings; meetings with parents; dinner and other moneys; responsibility for playground duty; the governing body; lost property; and a guide to where to find the school's curriculum and management documents.

Heads and teachers will probably throw up their hands in disbelief at what this arbitrary list omits. So you will find it helpful to exchange views and seek advice from old hands. Clearly the list may seem far removed from the great issues such as curriculum, but it may often be that it is the things set out here, apparently trivial in themselves, that combine to make schools the rare and valuable places they are.

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

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