Q Our problem is a simple but alarming one. It is highly unlikely that we shall be able to provide all the documentation required by OFSTED. For example, we have no policies or schemes of work for some subjects. Will OFSTED inspectors compromise on this, or does it mean we have already made a bad start?
A Schools, with their respect for the written word, tend to attach exaggerated importance to documentation. Relevant documentation is vital to the effectiveness of the school and the realisation of its aims, but it is important not to become obsessive about it to the detriment of more important issues.
You may find it helpful to bear the following in mind: * There is probably more material available to you than you suspect: probably at least some form of school prospectus, staff jobrole descriptions, some records of governor meetings.
* Some information that is not formally documented can be quickly assembled, based on a collation of your present practice - a marking policy, a record of extra-curricular activities, for example.
* Resist desperate preparation of policies and schemes of work, too hastily thrown together to be of any relevance or value to teaching or learning. Continue to work steadily with the schemes and policies you are engaged on. Inspectors, aware that many schools are reviewing documentation in the light of Dearing and the special needs code will treat what already exists on its merits and as evidence of intention about what remains to be done. Just ensure that in the absence of subject documentation you have, at least, broad outlines that guarantee general continuity and progression across the key stages.
* Make sure that your documentation is as faithful a blueprint as possible of the life and work of the school. The most lyrical written plans for spiritual education, for example, are unlikely to impress if the reality is a school bereft of music, the creative arts, carefully conceived religious education and harmonious relationships.
* Most important of all, as a headteacher, do not allow the preparation of documentation to become a substitute for more urgently required action, or to distance you from the work, concerns and needs of classroom teachers. Appropriate support for teachers will yield more benefits than the most sumptuous documentation.
Bill Laar is a registered inspector. Write to him co Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY