An inspector writes

2nd February 1996 at 00:00
Bill Laar is a registered inspector. Write to him at The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax 0171-782 3200. e-mail:

I am discovering, as headteacher, that the aftermath of inspection is as difficult, in its way, as what went before. Our report has been very sound; the problem is that the staff's enthusiasm has vanished and their teaching has gone off the boil. How do I deal with this malaise?

I suspect that many people still facing inspection would gladly exchange places with you and your present problem, for the joy of a good report and the trial over and done with; rather like a patient awaiting surgery envies the convalescent, whatever the temporary discomfort.

But the post-inspection trauma you are facing is a serious matter, common to a number of schools.

It is likely that teachers will feel drained by the cumulative effect of the inspection process and your staff is probably behaving as most people do when they have survived an ordeal, whatever its scale. Anxiety may have caused many of them to do things by the book during the inspection and avoid the adventurous, the risky or the unpredictable. If this tendency persists in a general mood of anti-climax, then it is hardly surprising if teaching remains cautious and apparently uninspired.

There is of course, urgent business to be attended to before you set about helping staff recover the enthusiasm of old. A main function of inspection is to provide schools with a useful basis for action in building on strengths and eradicating weaknesses.

You and your governors are responsible for drawing up an action plan in response to the key issues, complete with realistic time scales, resource provision and staff responsibilities. That plan has to be supplied to all parents.

A staff, in the weary aftermath of inspection may wish for oblivion for a while, but there is a world watching and waiting for action.

Allocate responsibility for particular aspects to individuals or small groups of staff; ensure that this is an affirmation of your confidence and an opportunity for regeneration for those for whom the inspection has not been auspicious, and an accolade for the successful. Set targets and arrangements for review.

No head should be attempting to cope alone with such vital business. You have a right to expect the full involvement of senior staff and, where necessary, appropriate use of available finances to secure expert advice and support from outside.

In relation to the wider question of staff renewal you may wish to consider some of the following :

* It is not too late to celebrate formally your fine report (some governing bodies acknowledge the work of staff with a party or dinner).

* Try for the next couple of terms to make your INSET programme varied, enjoyable and memorable as possible; consider an interesting location, and avoid, for this time, basing many of the themes on inspection issues.

* Put particular emphasis for half term on the creative arts; give pupils and staff opportunity to have as wide and practical experience as possible of music, drama, dance, painting and sculpture. Bring in, where you can, performers and artists.

* Consider a temporary suspension of at least part of the normal timetable to allow groups of staff and pupils to engage in a pursuit, project or activity of their own choosing.

* Explore the possibility of an initiative that benefits the wider community, ranging from older pupils supporting the literacy programmes of primary schools, to a range of small-scale environmental enrichment projects.

* The inspection process will have added significantly to your professional awareness and honed your skills. Take advantage of this; consider whether, as a staff, you might devise INSET, guidance and advice for other schools.

* Do a whole school project that taps the creativity, inventiveness and talents of staff and pupils - perhaps a video devised, written, acted and produced together.

* In the end, however, the real solution will be found in teachers' irrepressible urge to respond to pupils' constant interests, needs, demands and enthusiasms.

In the meantime, for schools yet to be inspected, it may be sensible to make provision for the implementation of the action plan an essential part of pre-inspection planning with, where possible, particular responsibilities assigned in advance.

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