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The opening of a Pandora's box

Kilbowie Primary in Clydebank is one of the first schools in Scotland to undergo the new standards and quality inspections. Headteacher Sheila Campbell has kept her own journal of events and here kicks off the first of our weekly instalments.


One wet morning

Thank goodness the special awards ceremony at Kilbowie Primary is successfully over. Now we can concentrate on collecting, collating and cataloguing resources, house matches and the end of session service and award ceremony. All of us - adults and children - are scenting the long awaited summer holiday.

Wet play supervision over and a strong coffee in hand, I walk through the main office to my room. Well, not quite through the office: there is a box the size of those containing photocopy paper on the floor. No one is in the office to ask where it came from. I get a sinking feeling.

There are labels stuck in prominent places stating RESTRICTED in large black capital letters. It might be a bomb; for a second I hope it is. But I know exactly what is in the box. I have been dreading this delivery for at least two years - before that I thought the announcement would come by letter - yet the reality is hard to accept.

By a mysterious telepathy, the other members of the management team appear and are surprised when I suggest we open the box in my room. The light dawns, accompanied by nervous laughter and shaking knees, but I feel an almost icy, quiet calm. The effect of a pre-med springs to mind - but this is a pre-inspection effect.

My fingers lack deftness as I try to remove the brown paper. The contents are a cornucopia, not of delights, but of factual information about the new school standards and quality inspections. There are handy hints and briefing notes for the headteacher and staff, copies of letters to the director of education, school board chairman and lay inspector, a supply of letters and information leaflets to be distributed to parents of children at the primary school, together with questionnaires for a representativ sample, and letters, leaflets and questionnaires for parents of the nursery children.

Amid all this is the date in September when the main phase of our inspection will begin and names of the four inspectors. Not a man in sight! Where is the gender balance? Brunettes prefer men!

I telephone my husband to inform him of a change of plan: please cancel our fortnight's holiday in August and get the gin in the fridge.

1pm: bell on manual setting

I walk into the staffroom, the half-wrapped box in my hands, with staunch lieutenants on either side. I explain to puzzled staff that there has been a special delivery. Their reactions range from slightly hysterical laughter and stunned expressions to the positive remark that we've been dreading this for so long that it is better to get it over.

The medical anology resurfaces. Limbo state could be compared to being on a National Health waiting list for a major operation.

The box also contains a request to complete a school profile before the end of the first week of the new session. A 24-page hard copy outline is enclosed, together with a computer disc for electronic completion. A 30-minute presentation is to be prepared for the second week of term. And there is the promise of a call from the reporting officer within a few days.

The telephone rings incessantly at Kilbowie Primary, so nerve endings are raw and twitching is pronounced by the time the lengthy but reassuring call arrives. Many points are clarified and "she" sounds human, but will she be transformed when she makes her initial visit to the school? This is to be the opportunity to "sell myself and the school". Was this why I went into teaching?


I'm keeping up to date with the school post and trying to pretend that relaxation is a realistic expectation. August will bring the joy of preparation for the profile and presentation for the revised standards and quality inspection.

Next week: How good is our school? Preparing the presentation and profile 6 Management

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