Today is part of my own pre-inspection campaign. I join a rather faded man, recently returned from sick leave, who confides that he might be off at lunchtime if today's pre-Ofsted meeting is too harrowing. We enter a room full of heads and deputies in varying degrees of fadedness. All up for it.
The registered inspector is talking through a video of someone teaching. The audience is shooting it down. "Sometimes I think I'd fail it, and sometimes I don't," muses Reggie. "Challenge the inspectors. Sometimes they're skating on very thin ice. Demand evidence for their judgment."
I am tempted to punch him on the nose, but join in the mood of passivity that encourages someone to murmur, "Good of him to share his uncertainty". Good! He's perpetuating a system which is killing teaching and creating the group hysteria found in Walmington-on-Sea.
A local headteacher talks us through his recent, very successful inspection. The atmosphere is awed. "Aim high," he briefs the troops. "You're not alone. Involve the LEA. They come in, light a few touchpapers and retire. People don't like it, but it's worth it. Stay positive. Give the inspectors a comfortable room and a tin of biscuits." Is this what they call catching the enemy off guard?
"It's a game," he continues, "but all the other schools are playing it and they might be ahead of you." Grizzled heads nod in agreement. "I can't pretend that I didn't wonder if my whole career was to be judged in four days and on a few sheets of A4."
This man has been a headteacher for more than 20 years. He obviously didn't panic. I thank him for lending us his binoculars and rejoin the colleague who's managed to make it past lunchtime. We're subdued as, eyeball to eyeball, we wish each other luck with a firm handshake, but I'm soon chortling away at Le Mesurier. Suave, urbane and good on the biscuits, he's been chosen to welcome a gilt-encrusted inspector to the platoon. "I say old boy," he queries laconically, "is all this really necessary?" Linda Pagett is deputy head of a primary school in the West Country