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Experience makes a good lay

GILL Tweed's central point in her letter (TES, September 29) is that because most lay inspectors have had a background of interest in schools (though never having been employed in them) they "cannot cast a fresh and dispassionate eye on what goes on".

Hearsay evidence seems to indicate that in many cases the "different" contribution of lay inspectors is appreciated by schools and by registered inspectors.

MPs who wrote the 1999 Select Committee report on the work of the Office for Standards in Education certainly concluded that they "bring a valuable perspective to the work of inspection teams".

The Government concurred, noting "a wide range of experience" among lay inspectors. Those who had served schools "as a governor or in any other voluntary capacity" were better placed "to make a focused and appropriate contribution to the work of the inspection team".

I'm sure I inspect with more breadth and understanding for having been a school governor. Experience of nearly 100 inspections has not left me with any feelingthat I now know, or have met, all the answers.

The job is complex and arduous. To produce, within a few days, well-focused, evidenced, balanced, judgmental and helpful writing is a pain. Those lay people who are attracted to inspection are predominantly motivated by social regard for the important difference education should bring, and a gratitude for the open and enquiring mind their own education has inspired. The product of a life outside, informed by its own disciplines, is offered back.

I know that my colleagues are very much impressed by the hard work and professionalism almost always brought to bear by teachers. We have rejoiced to examine and confirm standards of all sorts rising year by year.

It is, against this background, for teachers to reflect among themselves as to whether they would really prefer their efforts to be judged by the first person off the Clapham omnibus.

John Acaster


The Association of Lay Inspectors


Buxton Road

West Disley, Cheshire

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