Iteration means irritation

18th March 2005 at 00:00
I like the word "iterative". It means to repeat, to go round again, to be "marked by tedious repetition". It's a good word to use in school because we do a lot of it. Some call it revising, but these days we say we are "revisiting".

Sometimes it is a helpful process. It aids clarification, embeds learning, allows opportunities for reflection. But sometimes it is a bloody waste of time, especially when it involves school staff going round and round in a circle for no reason.

An example. Last December, I received a pack of forms on which we were to order the mark sheets and teacher assessment forms for Year 6 Sats (form DC2). I completed the forms and sent them off with a data file of pupils'

names, genders and dates of birth. The next month we completed the Pupil Level Annual School Census - a return to the Department for Education and Skills which includes a data file of pupils' names, genders and dates of birth.

The month after that, I received an email telling me that I needed to check and confirm the details of pupils to be entered for Y6 Sats. I ignored it because I knew I had sent off two data files containing that information.

Yesterday, I had an email from the National Assessment Agency telling me I had not responded to the previous email and warning me to confirm the pupils' details. So I gave in and clicked on the link I was directed to. I was instructed to log in using our password. I tried our DfES password - wrong. Our unique Panda number - wrong. Our unique Ofsted reference number - wrong. The required number was the one on the front of the DC2, but I had posted the form so I did not have the number I needed.

I rang the helpline. They said I must confirm that the details I had sent to the DfES had been correctly sent to the National Assessment Agency and that they had uploaded them correctly before printing. Surely, my having sent the details, it was their job to check they'd uploaded them correctly?

No, that's the head's responsibility. "Could I have the password from the front of the form so I can enter the website and check the details on your behalf ?" No. A colleague would have to phone me tomorrow.

The next day, I had to iterate the exercise in order to reiterate that the data I gave in December and January was the same as that I now confirm in February and March. For the mark sheets to be correctly printed, I have to follow a process "marked by tedious repetition". Is this what ministers mean by a single conversation and an end to duplication?

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