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Civil servants go back to school

AS a senior civil servant Helen Williams is used to sweeping through up to four schools in a day.

But a very different visit to Elsecar Holy Trinity primary, Barnsley, gave her the chance to spend three days in one place - and left her worn out.

Mrs Williams, director of primary education and e-learning at the Department for Education and Skills, said: "Usually when I go on a visit, I see two primaries and two secondaries in one day and focus on a specific set of questions.

"This visit has been quite tiring, what strikes me is how you are constantly on duty as a teacher. An in-tray full of papers you can put on one side for five minutes, but you can't do that with a classroom full of children."

Russ Hall, deputy head and Year 1 teacher at the 150-pupil school, said:

"Initially everybody was wary because we did not know what she was looking for, but it was really pleasant. We sent out for fish and chips at the end of term and she even joined in on the order, opting for chicken and salad."

David Pannett, headteacher, said: "We talked about all sorts of things, budgetary problems, curriculum development, computer development, literacy, numeracy and the tests. It gave Helen an insight into what we're about at the sharp end. How we deal with individual children's lives."

Six civil servants went on three-day visits as part of the pilot project run jointly with the National Association of Head Teachers.

Monica Galt, head of King's Road primary, Manchester, hosted Geoff Brown, a curriculum policy adviser.

She said: "He was really happy to get to the nitty-gritty and thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the staff. He came to an assembly and had lunch with the children. He even came to a parents' evening and spoke to parents. He was so easy to have here, he just mucked in."

Others taking part in the project were Roger Frost, school workforce project manager, who visited The Priory C of E primary, Wimbledon, south London; Penny Neu, schools communication team leader, who went to Nelson primary, Newham, east London; Susan Acland-Hood, primary education team leader, who visited Sherwood junior, Nottinghamshire; and Nina Curley, literacy and numeracy team leader, who went to Epiphany C of E primary, in Bournemouth.

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