Dear Mr Head, give us pound;2,000

9th June 2000 at 01:00
DEAR Elspeth,

You asked me for a response to your threshold application, which I have now received.

I cannot, of course, give you any official feedback until after the external assessor has been. As headteacher I have to act correctly throughout.

You have followed the proper format, but I must point out that applications have to be submitted on the official form, so your two pages of lined Oxford pad, followed by three sheets of lilac-scented notepaper, may be deemed unacceptable.

I am also wondering whether your somewhat flippant prose style may count against you in the eyes of the external assessor. For example, in your cover note you talk about "giving it a whirl" and state that your application is submitted "with the same pathetic optimism as my weekly purchase of a ticket for the National Lottery".

In the career details section you then write the single word "dogsbody" as your current post and describe your specialism as "preaching to the unconvertible". I don't personally mind your little joke, putting my Christian name down as "Genghis", but again I wonder how the assessor will react.

The evidence offered under the heading "knowledge and understanding" is a little sparse. While the notes of guidance mention preparation for the new national curriculum, I am not sure of the wisdom of devoting this section entirely to a description of how you and your class have pulped shelves full of old national curriculum pamphlets and recycled them as papier mache nodding poodles.

The "teaching and assessment" section really invites you to describe your teaching strategies. Although the notes of guidance cite how teachers deal with bullying as a possible area for comment, this was meant to refer to bullying among pupils, not to your view of the role of the deputy head in this school.

However, it is in the section where you have to describe pupil progress that you are in most difficulty.

Your opening remark surely overstates the situation: "The average IQ in my class resembles that of a swarm of gnas, so it would need a literacy and numeracy decade every day to make any progress - let alone a mere hour."

Incidentally, the phrase "P-levels" in the guidance notes refers to performance levels in special schools, not to how high the boys in your class can "piddle up the toilet walls", as you put it. Your claim that this is "much higher than it was last September" will not, I am afraid, qualify as value-added evidence.

I have to say that I was rather hurt by your response to Section 4 of your application, on wider professional effectiveness. To describe our school development plan as "the greatest piece of fiction since War and Peace" is a gross insult to the deputy head and myself, who spent many hours writing it. Your dismissal of our whole-school training days as being "about as stimulating as toothache" was also rather unkind.

Unfortunately, the final section on professional characteristics does not add to your case. There is space here to describe what you do towards team building with your colleagues in the school. To write cynically, as you did: "There is nothing we wouldn't do for each other, so I do nothing for them and they do nothing for me", is a missed opportunity.

You ask, in your note to me, whether there is anything I can do to influence the external assessor, "like slipping something into his cocoa". The assessor will, of course, work entirely independently and I hope you were only joking when you threatened to dress up in Dracula make-up during his visit.

Our external assessor is indeed the same person who used to be head of Lower Swineshire primary school, but although there were some criticisms of his school in their OFSTED report, it is not true to say that it was the worst report since Dotheboys Hall, nor is it fair to refer to his pound;350-a-day assessor fee as "blood money".

It is kind of you to offer to pay for me to accompany you to Benidorm if you are successful, but I shall be holidaying in Skegness.

Join the great threshold debate at Over To You on www.tes.co.uk


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