HMIE's brutish behaviour

HM Senior Chief Inspector Graham Donaldson's assertion that teacher stress during inspections is caused by "badly-run schools where teachers feel isolated or unsupported" (The TESS, September 19) betrays a complacency that does not sit well with his belief in honest and meaningful self-evaluation.

I have been privileged to work for 15 years in a school which has valued my contribution, supported me through difficult times and always looked to my development. The vast majority of the staff in the school feel the same way. New teachers, supply teachers, students and probationers routinely comment on the supportive and cohesive approach of the staff, often drawing comparisons with other establishments which are entirely favourable to my school.

However, during our recent HMIE inspection, I and many other staff suffered an intolerable degree of stress - caused entirely by the abrasive and aggressive nature of some of the inspectors. Along with several others, I ended up questioning whether I had - or wanted - a future in education. Committed people wanting to do their best for children should not be treated like this.

Fools that we were, we did take an open approach. We discussed our failings as well as our successes. All we did was provide the inspectors with further ammunition for their assaults. Some staff were reduced to tears by intimidating and wholly inappropriate questioning. The inspectors were, it seemed, only interested in confirming their jaundiced view of the school, which they had derived solely from recent examination results.

Ironically, two of the areas of the school's work, about which the inspectors were positive, were staff's commitment to the school and the school's commitment to developing staff.

In the light of our experience, perhaps Mr Donaldson might wish to apply some meaningful self-evaluation to his belief that inspections - and inspectors - are not a cause of stress.

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