Many headteachers will tell you that, during an Ofsted inspection, you have to be the lead inspector's shadow. The idea is to always be "seen", in order to avoid accusations of leading from the desk rather than the front, while also providing constant support for staff. And by being ever-present, you have more opportunity to try to sway the inspectors.
But being seen does not necessarily mean being visible. As the headteacher, your role is to set the scene, clarify your vision and present the school ethos, but it is also to trust your staff and school to show how good they can be without you looking over their shoulders. It is not about being seen all the time, but being seen at the right time.
To some extent, I believe that schools should abandon the traditional hierarchical structure where a headteacher is the figurehead, and instead focus on building hubs of excellence with a sense of shared leadership that underpins every decision and enables the entire school to meet learning outcomes. Sometimes this requires the headteacher's presence, but sometimes it needs just their support.
When the call comes from Ofsted, you need to lead from the front. It is important to quell your own panic, communicate the news internally and externally, and take the opportunity to reiterate your goals and manage expectations.
Typically, there will be about two hours between the phone call and the end of school. Use this time to schedule an urgent staff meeting, compose a letter to parents and write a message for students to be read out the following morning. Preparing many of these elements in advance will enable you to direct your attention to showing your school at its best.
The temptation is to micromanage, but you need to trust your teachers to do their jobs. If your school is run as a collaborative organisation then staff and students will feel part of a team, and that needs to be reinforced at times of pressure.
And what about when the inspectors arrive? Well, you need to continue with that philosophy. Here are my seven tips on how to be seen during an Ofsted inspection.
1 Walk with your flock
Walk the corridors, smile at staff and show them that you appreciate their role in the process. Many members of the team, from the teaching body to administrative and facilities staff, will have spent hours the night before refining lesson plans, running reports and checking requirements, so ensure that they feel recognised and united.
2 Engage with students
This could take the form of popping into tutor groups, joining students in the dining room at lunchtime or delivering a message in assembly.
3 Empower your leadership team
Make it clear that you want members of your senior leadership team to talk openly with the inspector, and give them the confidence to show that they can promote a shared vision, drive change and manage success.
4 Open lines of communication
Encourage staff to discuss any issues with the leadership team. For example, if a teacher feels that an observed lesson didn't go as well as planned, it is very important to put a support structure in place that will help them to cope with any further observations.
5 Prep your governors
Define roles and responsibilities for governors on the day. Ensure they are provided with the right tools and resources so they feel comfortable handling any issues on your behalf.
6 Trust your school
Don't feel you are expected to provide answers to every question. Trust your team to handle tough queries whether you are present or not, and trust the inspectors to do their job, too. A headteacher who relentlessly follows inspectors around is a headteacher without faith in their staff and their school.
7 Embrace change
Finally, when the inspection is over and the lead inspector has given verbal feedback to senior staff and governors, it is important to be positive and to thank everyone for their hard work and support. You must always be seen to be embracing change, scrutinising outcomes and striving to ensure that your school becomes outstanding.
Phil Munday is headteacher of Henry Cort Community College in Hampshire