Paul Noble quails as he reads inspectors' accounts of what they look for in their work
THE PRIMARY CO-ORDINATOR AND OFSTED RE-INSPECTION. By Phil Gadsby and Mike Harrison. Falmer Press pound;12.95.
This is no lightweight or comforting work to cuddle up with before you go to bed. You could have nightmares.
Here we have an inspector's eye view of the inspection process given a particular gloss for subject co-ordinators so that they might be ready for the fateful day when the inspector calls.
The book does not shower you with information and advice, rather it sweeps you away with a torrent from hell. Cope with all this and you will definitely score extra Brownie points from Ofsted and a gold medal in smugness, but more likely you will end up feeling dreadfully inadequate.
The book is thorough and shows a great concern for detail, statistics, results, charts, audit sheets and inventories, and includes 23 illustrative figures to prove it. The words "must" and "need" appear quite often so if you are of a nervous disposition I advise a valium before each page. Questions are posed that will unhinge your mind. Opening the book at random on page 136, I counted 79 question marks in four pages. but maybe I was just lucky.
Subject co-ordinators are now expected to monitor the teaching of their subject in school. "Does the lesson plan show adequate differentiation; the relationship between this lesson and the whole series; a relationship to the national curriculum; awareness of resources; and, continuity of teaching and progression in learning?" As I have already remarked, the book is thorough. Check your colleagues' evaluations. "Are evaluations perceptive, detailed and clearly organised, giving a full perspective on pupil attainment, teaching ability?" "Yes... er...No...er..."
I think that teachers, especially those under the pressure of inspection, need books like this like jumbo jets need outside toilets. But it cannot be denied that it is comprehensive and, no doubt, accurate. There are complex chapters on carrying out a subject co-ordinator's monitoring role; chapters on the details of inspection, before and after; three chapters allocated to discussing a co-ordinator's function; and a section given to looking at factors affecting the quality of teaching in a particular subject area. Light relief is provided by quotes from dead inspection reports.
Creating a satisfactory paper trail is an unheralded theme of much of the writing and those who are about to be "done" will salute this aspect of the work. But faith in paper is touching and I loved the quote from a headteacher in East Anglia. "As the policy had been developed with the full agreement of the staff, there was therefore no excuse for poor teaching."
The authors' approach is informed, bureaucratic, pedantic and humourless - that is, entirely appropriate. Coming from a background that put children before systems, I find the audit mentality that permeates Ofsted inspections dehumanising. So much of the inspection process, and indeed of this book, is about producing paper to prove that something has been done or to show that somebody else should have done it, a morally bankrupt approach to education that is more about shifting blame than cultivating souls.
* Paul Noble is head of St Andrew's primary school, Blunsdon, Wiltshire