A head's job is not bad, the audit system is

29th January 2010 at 00:00

I have been following the sad case of Irene Hogg. What struck the greatest chord with me was when her brother, Roger Hogg, said his sister had felt her job had become "unsustainable, that things were changing and she wasn't enjoying it".

The job has slowly but inexorably changed, for the worse, over the past 15 years or so. But there's nothing wrong with the job itself, even that of the teaching head in a small school. What is wrong is the audit system. It has vast schedules and proformas from a number of different regulatory bodies, all overlapping and in contradiction.

Inspectors impose their opinions, and what they are concerned with is matching you to descriptors they have dreamed up. They reach broad sweeping generalisations in a very short time but do not discuss them with you or allow you to comment on them. These are given to you in "feedback", already fixed by the time you try to get your view across. The reports are written without your input, what inspectors call "securing our evaluations". Evidence is heard in secret and if anyone has an axe to grind, you get no right of reply.

Then you are damned in the public domain. Headteachers are subjected to withering personal criticism, to which they don't get any opportunity to respond, and this is presented as if set in stone. Everything is determined in terms of grades.

I have had six "encounters" with the inspectorate in my current post. In fact, I found four of these positive and, if that had been that, I might have wondered what all the fuss was about. So that is me with a 66 per cent positive rating. But then there were the other two, which I can only describe as a travesty of due process.

It's only when you happen to have a problem or issue arising during an inspection that you find out the true colour of this system. It is not set up to assist you. Its logic is that if you have a problem, that is obviously because you are "not good": if you were, you wouldn't have the problem. That is the logic of a system set up on fixed indicator grading and a snapshot.

If it is suggested that the sheriff's findings "vindicated" HMIE, we might as well all give up. Miss Hogg faced the prospect of a witheringly poor inspection report, yet it took a fatal accident inquiry to find, on the basis of the substantial evidence presented to it, that "Irene Hogg proved herself to be an outstanding headteacher".

Primary headteacher (Name and address supplied).

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