Experience makes a good lay

27th October 2000 at 01:00
GILL Tweed's central point in her letter (TES, September 29) is that because most lay inspectors have had a background of interest in schools (though never having been employed in them) they "cannot cast a fresh and dispassionate eye on what goes on".

Hearsay evidence seems to indicate that in many cases the "different" contribution of lay inspectors is appreciated by schools and by registered inspectors.

MPs who wrote the 1999 Select Committee report on the work of the Office for Standards in Education certainly concluded that they "bring a valuable perspective to the work of inspection teams".

The Government concurred, noting "a wide range of experience" among lay inspectors. Those who had served schools "as a governor or in any other voluntary capacity" were better placed "to make a focused and appropriate contribution to the work of the inspection team".

I'm sure I inspect with more breadth and understanding for having been a school governor. Experience of nearly 100 inspections has not left me with any feelingthat I now know, or have met, all the answers.

The job is complex and arduous. To produce, within a few days, well-focused, evidenced, balanced, judgmental and helpful writing is a pain. Those lay people who are attracted to inspection are predominantly motivated by social regard for the important difference education should bring, and a gratitude for the open and enquiring mind their own education has inspired. The product of a life outside, informed by its own disciplines, is offered back.

I know that my colleagues are very much impressed by the hard work and professionalism almost always brought to bear by teachers. We have rejoiced to examine and confirm standards of all sorts rising year by year.

It is, against this background, for teachers to reflect among themselves as to whether they would really prefer their efforts to be judged by the first person off the Clapham omnibus.

John Acaster


The Association of Lay Inspectors


Buxton Road

West Disley, Cheshire

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today