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Warning:It's a tough life being self-employed

For some the opportunity of training as an OFSTED team inspector offers a second career away from the classroom or the local authority advisory service.

If you can afford the Pounds 1,000 fee for one of OFSTED's intensive courses, you will be coached in report-writing, working as a team member and inspecting in strict accordance with the framework.

But once you are a self-employed inspector you are on your own and possibly bewildered about how to approach contractors, what further training you need, or indeed which direction your new career could take. Brian McCafferty of OFSTED says: "Team inspectors are, in effect, running their own businesses. " Chris Glyn of Nord Anglia says: "OFSTED is driven by market forces. People coming from the maintained public sector need to make an adjustment. There are no guarantees of continuous employment."

David Tomlinson, of Cambridge Education Associates, has some advice. "Most inspectors are working for three or four contractors to ensure continuity of work in a competitive market."

Like other contractors, CEA believes in investing in the continuous professional development of its self-employed workforce. David Tomlinson explains: "We encourage our inspectors to offer a consultancy service to schools and local authorities. Few local authorities can now afford large inspection services so they top up their teams with subject specialists from contractors like us."

Other contractors advise their inspectors to go on MA or MBA courses where OFSTED's own team-member qualification and work experience as an inspector count as credits towards a higher degree.

Helen Gunter, course tutor for Keele University's postgraduate education programme, says: "Our MA and MBA courses are sponsored by OFSTED and enable inspectors to develop their range of experience - to give them access to research and theory as well as being able to develop other areas of management expertise."

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