Time has become distorted, elastic; nervous glances at my watch reveal in equal measure that it is only five minutes since the last glance or that a precious hour of preparation for D-Day has passed.
I try to continue to work steadily through the 15 items on the documentation for inspection checklist. As these include such weighty tomes as a complete set of school policies, policy statements and guidance for teachers, and a listcatalogue of resources, including audio-visual and computer resources, it takes up an inordinate amount of management and clerical staff time. These all exist, but are not under one cover.
I must remember to issue all headteacher colleagues who have not been inspected since 1994 with both the headteacher's and the documentation for inspection checklists. They could have all these items together in a large crate ready to pass to HM Inspectorate during the three weeks between the arrival of the "restricted" box and the sallying forth of the hellish legions.
How I wish I had a principal teacher to prepare the documentation and answer the questions on the core and learning programmes for the 13 main aspects of the 5-14 curriculum!
I am so fortunate to have very capable and effective depute and assistant heads. Pupils, parents and staff, as well as outside agencies, still need the liaison and support which is particularly time-consuming at the start of a session. In primary schools, teachers are committed to classes for the entire pupil day, so supply cover is bought in to release teachers for vital liaison with support staff and between stage partners, which this year has to take place in a much shorter timescale.
Friday, September 1 Strains of "No milk today, my love has gone away" emanate from te school office. I'm a long-time fan of music therapy and have suggested to the clerical staff that they sing more often. Then I hear the words: "Two weeks today, they'll all have gone away".
I have superior staff at Kilbowie Primary.
Monday, September 4 - Thursday, September 7 I continue to work on the documentation checklist, including the programme of activities for the lay inspector who will spend next Wednesday in school.
In helpful guidelines supplied by the reporting officer, it is suggested that activities be arranged at half-hourly intervals, to include a tour of the school and grounds with the janitor (thank goodness we have a committed and splendid gentleman as part of the team), meetings with the school board chairman, parent-teacher association members, parents of children from all stages in the school, ancillary staff, cook supervisor, pupil teacher council (P2-7), house captains and vice captains (P6 and 7).
Time has also to be allocated for the reading of newsletters, pupils' reports (names deleted), handbook, school board and PTA minutes, and also for a meeting with the headteacher to discuss these and the responses from the parental questionnaires. It's a full programme for an "interested volunteer"!
Psychological service reviews, social work case conferences, forward plan monitoring, education action plan meetings, teaching and learning continue unabated, as does the passing of the hours.
Friday, September 8 The reporting officer has courteously asked if she may arrive at 8am on Monday to make preparations for the main phase of the inspection. Staff are frequently in school at that time and, as there are no walls to have ears at Kilbowie, a reminder seems advisable.
Strains of "One week today ..." are heard, this time more loudly - and coming from the staffroom.
Sheila Campbell Next week: inspection week.
Sheila Campbell is headteacher at Kilbowie Primary, West Dunbartonshire