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We're not Ofsted spies

* John Bangs rightly points out some of the tensions within the new school improvement partner programme. His emphasis, however, on schools that need significant intervention from a local authoritychildren's services indicates a concern that should not be reflected in most schools, since they are unlikely to be under a notice to improve or be judged inadequate in all respects.

If we accept that even the best organisation can improve, the role of the SIP becomes less threatening, offering both challenge and support.

The advantage of a SIP is hisher involvement with a network focused on school improvement. SIPs will see good practice across schools locally and further afield. This will be enhanced as more heads become SIPs. Ofsted is not the same process: a SIP can be a valuable source of advice about improving school evaluation forms well before the Ofsted telephone call.

These forms are increasingly important, not only for Ofsted but also for achieving specialist school status . It may be more helpful, therefore, to think of SIPs primarily as defining a more subtle brokerage with schools and local authorities.

Serving heads will, almost always, have only limited time to spend with a school other than their own. If a school needs significant support there will be other personnel locally who can provide this in a sustained way, through the strategic use of inspectors andor consultants.

Chris Hummerstone

(Headteacher and National College for School Leadership network co-ordinator for the South-east)

The Arnewood school

Gore Road

New Milton, Hants

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