Day in the life - Honoree Gordon

24th October 2008 at 01:00
Her Majesty's Inspector

Like most inspectors, I spend a lot of time living out of a suitcase, but the variety of the job makes up for that. Today I'm leading an inspection at a large secondary, which the data suggests may be underachieving. When I arrive there's a slight air of apprehension. I try to remember that, while I do this all the time, for schools it's something that only comes around every few years.

I begin by meeting the headteacher and it turns out that he's got a surprise in store. The leader of the student council wants to shadow me, so they can see what I do and make sure I'm asking the right questions. I'm more than happy with that.

The whole day is a nice surprise. It soon becomes clear that the data isn't telling the real story. The school has moved on. Pupils are engaged with their learning and I observe a wonderful lesson where the entire class is speaking in Spanish. Seeing outstanding lessons is probably the best bit of my job.

The day is incredibly busy. At break and lunchtime, I talk to pupils to try to get more of a feel for the school. Overall, I am impressed. The student council is clearly strong here, and is even involved in staff appointments.

After school, I tell the headteacher how the day has gone. I don't believe in keeping my thoughts secret and the final report should never come as a surprise. Today is easy, because I can say good things. It's harder to tell people what they don't want to hear.

Back at the hotel I have a glass of beer and something to eat, before sifting through what the other inspectors have written. It's always nice to work with a team, whereas when I visit small village primaries I'm usually on my own.

Then it's off to bed, because tomorrow morning I'll be at up at 5am, planning for the second day of the inspection. It's intense, but I'm not out on inspections every day.

I recently carried out a policy review of how boarding schools are inspected and last week I was staffing the HMI helpdesk. I used to be a headteacher, and in many ways what I do now is a natural extension of that. It's all about giving young people the best possible education.

Honoree Gordon, 55, was talking to Steven Hastings.

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