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Out of sight, but always in mind

Thursday, October 12 Draft 3 of the Inspectors' Report has arrived. I reschedule a busy day to scan it and then scrutinise it with the depute and assistant heads. The staff are informed that the HMIs have found many strengths and that there are the minimum five points for action.

Friday, October 13 Holidays beckon. Thank goodness I was persuaded that a sunny holiday was merited.

Monday, October 16 3am Atlantic waves in warm, much warmer climes, lap below the window and my mental thesaurus drifts through the options that could change the slant of the carefully chosen statements in Draft 3 that are inspector-speak.

3pm Do HMIs have some highly effective form of telepathy? Is that why I see the reporting officer at every street corner in the Algarve, even the back of her head bobbing in the sea?

It's hard to believe that the visit made such a mental impact, considering that at no time did she become a "she-devil", nor was I made to feel threatened.

Wakeful nights continue despite the lapping waves on the sandy shore and vinho verde in plentiful supply.

Monday, October 23 I return to school to discover a message from the relief janitor, taken on October 16, saying that the reporting officer was unable to contact me. (So, the reporting officer can't have been in the Algarve - or Majorca, where a colleague was sure she had seen her!) Apparently, an administrative blip has caused the wrong version of the draft report to be issued, so the scrutinised draft sent to the director of education, the school board chairman and the headteacher is to be destroyed. Yet I had verified (just in case the Scottish Qualifications Authority virus had spread) that it was Draft 3 that had reached the school.

Empathy with the highly professional lady flowed, as I reflected on how she must feel. Perhaps HGI OOPS (How Good is Our Office Practice System?) is needed before the revision of HGIOS (How Good is Our School?).

The principle ighlighted in the HMI document Time for Teaching must apply to HMI as well as to schools and to local authorities.

Draft 3, Mark 2 appears on my desk. The writer's craft is exposed; subtle but significant changes surface and emphases shift. I compare and discuss the revised draft with the depute and assistant heads.

I forward the revised Draft 3 to the school board chairman.

The local authority consults about the response to HMI.

I wait for the promised telephone call from the reporting officer, as I feel it courteous that she should know about Inspection Diary before she, like me, relaxes with The TES Scotland on Friday evenings. Sounds sad - perhaps we need therapy.

Friday, October 27 As expected, the reporting officer meets her own deadline and we have a 15-minute telephone discussion on the revised Draft 3 before I mention The TES Scotland.

She is human. Her reaction would have been mine. I assure her that I will be as just, objective and professional as she has been, reporting only on substantiated evidence. We arrange a meeting to discuss Draft 3 (2).

Tuesday, October 31 The estimated one-hour negotiation on the draft report extends to almost three hours.

Will it be productive? That depends on the wealth of evidence still retained at HMI headquarters. The reporting officer will give me telephone feedback next week, the earliest time feasible for the school.

Monday, November 6 Negotiation has been fruitful but only because, on researching the mass of information gathered from the school, the HMI finds there is evidence to amend Draft 3.

The staff are informed of the grades allocated for the 22 categories of How Good is Our School? to be included in the final report. The projected date for publication is mid-December 2000.

Shall the year go out with joy?

Next week: Will HMI meet its publication target?

Sheila Campbell is head of Kilbowie Primary, West Dunbartonshire

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