Another view from inside Hillbrook;Opinion;Letter

5th February 1999 at 00:00
I JOINED Hillbrook primary school's governing body at about the same time as David Jordan (TES, January 22) and I was also a parent governor. However, I remember events surrounding the inspection by Geoffrey Owen, somewhat differently.

If, as Mr Jordan asserts, there was wilfully insufficient statistical data on attainment then how can he judge that "many'' pupils left the school innumerate and illiterate?

Far from being denied figures, the governors were regularly presented with them. Annual internal tests in English and maths showed gradual improvement, and national test results showed a slightly higher score than the national average in English. In a multi-lingual school with a great deal of Section 11 teaching, the attainment was quite considerable. As the governor responsible for English I can confirm this.

Under John Harries the school was improving. Teachers testified to a considerable change in ethos since his appointment. Again I can confirm this, being the governor entrusted with Mr Harries' last appraisal before his illness.

In my view, Mr Owen and Mr Jordan were made for one another. However, this was not the end of the story. The subsequent history of Mr Owen's career needs no rehearsal, but Mr Jordan failed to tell TES readers of the subsequent overturning of the recommendations of special measures. At best, this could be seen as a vindication of the teachers and governors.

I could be amused by Mr Jordan's self-presentation as the Cassandra of Doom, were it not for the accusation of bullying against Mr Harries. Never was criticism "unwelcome", although the forum for debate had properly to be the governors' meetings. During these Mr Jordan was never silenced, even if he lacked support.

Where I do agree with Mr Jordan is in his estimation of the dangers of GM status. It gives far too much power to unaccountable governors who have to exercise judgments beyond their competence. Schools need to have confidence in the process of inspection, which the example of Mr Owen (and Chris Woodhead's continuing support) does not inspire.

Dr Robert Sheppard Department of English Edge Hill College of Higher Education Ormskirk

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