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NQT dares to say 'inspection is good'

Claire Bentham is used to writing sweeping critiques of the education system.

Before training as a primary teacher last year, she was in charge of education policy for the Liberal Democrats. So she did not find it too difficult to craft her runner-up entry.

"In policy-making, you have a view that you're trying to change things for the better," the 27-year-old said. "And one of my reasons for going into teaching was that I realised I could change much more from the classroom.

"But I still have a hankering to say, I think the whole system should look like this, is wrong because of that."

Her column, inspired by an inspection this year at her primary school in Southampton, discusses her belief that inspections are good in principle, but poorly implemented in practice. "An inspection should be people working together to make education better," she said. "It shouldn't be inspectors and teachers at loggerheads, fighting power-battles that don't help the children at all."

She believes this is an opinion shared by many new teachers. "You'll probably find new teachers are in favour of inspection," she said. "Most teachers would say, yes, it's stupid that we're scared of it. I'd love some constructive advice. I really need inspectors to help me, and they're not."

RUNNER-UP

Extract from Claire Bentham's entry: I'll whisper it to save the shock: inspection is a good thing. It's important to check that teachers are good. The taxpayer is forking out quite a lot for us, and more importantly, the kids only get one shot at this. Outsiders see things we don't notice. For NQTs like me, inspection is crucial. So I was relaxed when our LEA inspector arranged a visit, and looked forward to discussing how I could improve.

Inspection day was Monday. Not great; most of my 30 Year 4s spend the weekend with no structure or clear rules, and come into school with a sleep deficit and a McDonald's milkshake for breakfast. This Monday also heralded David's return, after a week's absence and a horribly tough time. Two of his brothers had had a fight. Knives; police; social services. Not calculated to make a nine-year-old boy feel secure. We started maths. Other children worked out how many quarters fit into a half; David crawled round the back of the carpet.

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