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Prepare to stand and deliver

A new OFSTED booklet explains how to make the most of inspections. With good preparation and confident leadership, inspections are an opportunity to help schools improve pupils' learning, says a new booklet available free from the Office for Standards in Education and aimed at teachers and governors.

OFSTED inspections work best where schools already have their own internal procedures to assess their own successes; where they base staff development on the Framework for Inspection with an emphasis on the quality of teaching; where they involve all staff and governors in their planning; and when schools make clear to inspectors those areas within the Framework where external evaluation would be particularly helpful.

Drawing on what OFSTED has learnt from inspections so far, the booklet, Making the most of inspection, suggests that before inspections schools should take stock of themselves.

Governors and staff should apply the "clear and open criteria" that will be used by the inspectors "to reflect on how well the school is doing and what it needs to do next".

During the inspection, schools should draw attention to facts they feel are important. "The better informed the inspectors are, the more able they are to to evaluate the school and explain the judgments they reach," says the booklet.

Inspectors, it adds, expect to see staff working as normally as possible. staff are not expected to modify their plans or cover particular sections of the curriculum.

"Inspectors will not expect to see particular methods of teaching. Inspection is concerned with the effect of the teaching in promoting children's learning and does not prejudge what works best," says the booklet.

The 24-page booklet also provides details of how schools can complain about the conduct or reporting of an inspection (write to The Registrar, Inspection Quality Team, OFSTED, Alexandra House, 29-33 Kingsway, London WC2B 6SE).

OFSTED has also produced a free four-page guide for parents, explaining how the inspection will be carried out, how parents' views will be sought and how they will hear about the results of this "independent assessment of the school's strengths and weaknesses."

Making the most of inspection, a guide to inspections for schools and governors and School Inspections: a guide for parents can both be ordered free in bulk from OFSTED Publications Centre, PO Box 6927, London E3 3NZ, tel: 0171 510 0180.

Before the big day comes along

Heads can prepare by: * becoming familiar with the inspection handbook * collecting the documents needed * briefing staff and giving them a chance to talk through any concerns * setting a positive tone * focusing on any areas that need improvement * arranging for the inspector to meet all staff * telling pupils about the inspection * sampling students' work to illustrate the range and quality throughout the school Team leaders should: * evaluate how they carry out their work * check their documentation and how well used and understood it is * think how to explain the way their work influences practice in the school.

Class teachers should review their planning, teaching and use of assessment.

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