15th June 2001 at 01:00

SCHOOL INSPECTION: a teacher's guide to preparing for, surviving and evaluating Ofsted inspection. By Elizabeth Holmes. The Stationery Office. pound;14.99. TESDirect pound;13.99. 10 copies pound;135.

GOOD PUBLICITY FOR SCHOOLS: a practical guide. By Alison Falconer. The Stationery Office. pound;19.99. TESDirect pound;18.99. 10 copies pound;175.

On that dreadful morning when the Ofsted letter arrives, what's to be done? Dig out the TES jobs section? Too late: the shortened notice given of inspection dates means that you won't get your resignation letter off in time. Splash out on National Lottery tickets? Good idea, but you would probably be better off investing in Elizabeth Holmes's book. At first, I wondered who would want this guide to Ofsted week. Most teachers have survived at least one inspection and are not likely to have forgotten the smallest detail. Add conversations with friends in other schools and most will have built up a store of myths, horror stories and tips, rich enough to ensure a safe, if still uncomfortable, passage through an inspection.

There is enough in this book to sustain interest and give thoughtful insights into the way that the process has developed. The first half leans heavily on the official Handbooks for Inspecting Schools, and these and any updates from Ofsted should be the first source of guidance on inspections. The second half gets to grips with preparation on a more personal and practical level covering lesson preparation, being observed and taking a proactive role during the inspection week. It also suggests ways of dealing with the extra workload and stress. New and old hands will find much that will be seful: bullet points, lists and tables making information easily accessible. Buy it before the Ofsted letter arrives; it makes good reading for teachers and inspectors.

Good publicity for schools is a dream we all share, and Alison Falconer does some straightforward eyes-open dreaming in her well-organised, easy-to-read guide. The novice headteacher will find much to capture interest and some useful practical advice, including sound guidance on media relations and giving interviews. All the mechanisms for making a splash in the local newspaper and creating a comfortable layer of good feeling are there.

Many schools stretch their budgets to pay for professional help in prospectus design and production, and the book contains worthwhile suggestions. But where do you draw the line on buying in polish? Along with evidence of value for money there needs to be clear decisions about the appropriate use of money. The example of a budgeted strategy chart should keep over-enthusiasm in check.

A school's reputation is made or broken on the bedrock of family and community opinion. This book does not fully lock into this subject. There are good ideas about things that don't go far enough, and I was astonished that The TES was not included in the page and a half of media contacts, nor in the index - an omission which should be corrected in future editions.

Praise for the publisher; both books have been enhanced by good editing and high-quality layout and production.

MIKE SULLIVAN Mike Sullivan is a former primary headteacher, freelance educationist and Ofsted inspector based in the West Midlands

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