When an inspector called

6th June 2008 at 01:00
OK, we can talk about it now
OK, we can talk about it now. The inspectors have gone and the local papers have been sent an optimistic press release, which will probably be ignored while they scour the report for a more exciting headline: "Hinchingbrooke fails to meet collective worship legislation!"

I have to say, despite the fact that we are an eminently good school, with some outstanding features - the highest attendance in the county, good sixth-form guidance and key stage 3 achievement - we are still considered only satisfactory in the eyes of our masters because of variable KS4 results. So, in a school of over 1,800 students and 140 full-time equivalent teachers, we need to improve consistency, apparently. Well, there's a thing.

What do I draw from this, and what can I pass on to you in the middle for when it's your turn? Be bloody, bold and resolute, for one. While the first day of inspection went brilliantly, the parental questionnaires threw us a curveball to deal with late in the evening. It is vital at points such as this that you show your mettle. Have portfolios of evidence ready to back up your self-evaluation form and departmental or year group development plans. Case studies are invaluable; they track achievement and describe the personal journeys made by individual pupils.

Secondly, walk a lot. Ensure that any spare staff in your team are out and about on the corridors righting wrongs and recognising rights. From the moment you get the phone call, start the inspection: plan your lessons as though the inspectors are already there; check displays, uniform, litter bins and the marking of books. Prepare sample students from lower, middle and upper ability ranges, so that they can speak fluently in interviews. Collate staff groupings around key issues and include, not your best staff necessarily, but the staff who know best what is truly happening in your school.

So, was it worth all this effort? Well, we were able to recognise our school from the description in the final report, and that's what matters, despite the vagaries of an over-controlled and blinkered grading system. And we developed a great feeling of teamwork. So, yes, it was worth that.

Di Beddow, Deputy head, Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

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