Close encounter of the Primary Reggie kind
Writing a regular diary on education issues has never been a problem. A succession of Secretaries of State have helpfully provided me with at least one education initiative a fortnight to comment on, my headteacher is a rich source of professional indignation and my teacher husband and school-age children provide endless anecdotes, most of them sadly unprintable.
Nevertheless, I do occasionally suffer from a Scheherazade complex and the prospect of an OFSTED inspection is positively welcome. Never mind the quality of report, just think of the breadth of material.
So not writing about our impending inspection is not an option; but should I tell Reggie that I am doing it? Should I reveal that the apparently harmless middle-aged lady chair of governors is in reality - gasp! JOAN DALTON? I have never concealed my alter ego from the staff and governors at my school, and indeed they feed me with issues and incidents they feel need an airing.
Most of the local education authority officers I come into contact with are in on the secret too, as are my children's schools. I think it is unfair to attend colleagues' meetings, pick their brains or steal their jokes without them being aware that I am doing it.
Come to think of it, if I do not tell Reggie, someone else may well do so.
Several people have advised me not to come clean on the grounds that to do so might sound like a veiled threat: "Anything you say may be taken down and used in evidence ..." I am sure I can convey the information without implying this, but my children tell me I am just naturally intimidating. This is probably due to having spent all my adult life looking after other people's toddlers. Their safety and my sanity depended on my being able to stop them in their tracks at 50 paces with strategically raised eyebrow. The little ones I am currently looking after have voluntarily relinquished Teletubbies. I did not say a word. "You don't have to," says my daughter. "You simply radiate disapproval. "
I certainly do not want to curry favour; I shall have to rely on the professionalism of the team not to be influenced in any way by the fact that Aunty Joan is Watching. After all, people cope all the time now with fly-on-the wall television cameras. Perhaps that is not a very good analogy; they do tend to represent a rather jaundiced picture, highlighting the very worst practice. Will you ever feel quite comfortable in a hotel again after the Liverpool Adelphi revelations? I, on the other hand, shall be fair, impartial and strictly accurate. I just hope Reggie will be too.
I arranged for my two toddlers to join the reception class for the afternoon, having made a firm decision to confess all at the earliest opportunity. Just as well really, he had already been warned by a colleague. I showed him a couple of my diaries to demonstrate how entirely frivolous and unthreatening I am, and he spent some time telling me how much he admires Joan Sallis and had I met her?
Once we started talking about OFSTED and the school, we got on very well; he was good-humoured, informative, reassuring and positive.
But then he was always going to be, wasn't he?