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.
I assume that the headteacher's personal statement is regarded as very important. But what should be said and how much space should be devoted to it?
Ideally the statement will point the way, like signposts, to the vital defining characteristics of your school. I have seen this splendidly achieved in a couple of sheets of A4; others have needed three times as much space. You will probably want to say something, briefly, about these things: * the distinguishing features of your curriculum, particular emphases and the concerns that give rise to them; the elements beyond the statutory, designed to enrich and illuminate children's experience. Remember to refer the inspection team to the school development plan for information on the major structures and processes, the organisation, staffing, planning, resourcing, school-governor partnerships that underpin it all.
* the things that form the ethos of the school and give it identity as a community, commited to the fullest possible development of the children; something of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural dimension.
* the main arrangements for pupils' physical welfare, safety and wellbeing.
Heads will want to give inspectors a feeling for the community in which the school is set and the vital partnerships with parents. I have no doubt that whatever the challenge of the former and the circumstances of the latter, you would want to convey a sense of their worth and importance to you, the ways in which you seek to interact with them and the manner in which they impact on the education of the children.
Above all, and this is where I suggest the main emphasis of the statement should lie, you would want to write of your vision for the future of the school, and the children and community it serves, for the plans you and your staff are putting in place, how they grow from existing developments and achievements, and the means by which you hope to realise them.
The inspectors' understanding of your school can only be enlarged if something of the pride and joy you feel in it comes through your statement as well as the inevitable concerns and difficulties.