Diary

14th July 2000 at 01:00
The inspectors have finally called at Brenda Roe's primary school, after weeks of nervous preparation.

THE waiting's over, the whistle has sounded, and we're over the top. The long awaited and much-maligned inspection of our school has begun.

But just as the lead inspector's pre-inspection visit had revealed him - after all our worry - to be the Werther's toffee man, and not the devil in disguise, so the rest of the team he brought to our school have all proved to be equally disappointing. The trouble with them was, they were simply very hard not to like.

After nervous weeks of reading and hearing about ruthless inspection teams eager to catch out governors and staff with rudeness and trick questions, we were all a bit wrong-footed by this genial bunch.

There were even tales of a particularly discreet and understanding inspector who insisted on leaving an observation when children, infected by the excitement of the occasion, could contain themselves no longer and decided to give the stranger a show.

But instead of writing off the lesson as a failure, the canny inspector crept back and continued to observe the now-quieted class from a distance.

This is a new, until now unrecognised, advantage to having an open-plan school.

Yes, inspectors can watch unwatched.

I walked into an interview with the toffee man on the second day of the inspection, expecting to crack my teeth on a hard cenre, to be suddenly rounded on, wrong-footed and exposed helplessly as a power-hungry charlatan, not fit to be left in charge of a six-year-old's party let alone a school.

But there was no hidden nut. What I anticipated would be a grilling, was actually a free-range, relaxed, but always professional, chat.

He had obviously read up on our meetings and the rest of the bumf, yet didn't appear to have noticed the absence of any gubernatorial contact with the literacy co-ordinator since the autumn term. Now it might not seem such a gap, but in the wee small hours that lack of a literacy meeting had become a glaring hole that could sink the whole school. But then as you've probably guessed, I am also the literacy link governor and sometimes your mind can play cruel tricks.

An hour later as I left, just as the children were settling in for registration, I was sure I had done myself and the school justice, but uncertain if that was good enough.

But the Werther's man did seem pleased to reveal that the previous day's teaching observations had gone very well, and the team were happy with the lessons they had seen.

This despite the first real heat wave of the summer hitting us at the same time, which apparently left even the inspectors wilting at the end of the day.

Further proof of the fact that they are, after all, human?

Brenda Roe is the chair of governors in a London primary school.


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