No one is in doubt about what we face

17th November 2000 at 00:00
Planned Activity Time

We hold a staff discussion of spending plans for the pound;9,000 of additional funding from the Government. Secondary schools of our size get pound;30,000. Has the Chancellor heard of the success of early intervention?

The school strengths and points for action, as submitted to the inspectors, are discussed, and the staff are reminded that, no matter what we do during the inspection week, attainment in reading, writing and mathematics will be graded at best "fair", as indicated by national test results.

Why is there no benchmarking for like schools, as there is for education authorities? Why is no account taken of baseline assessment, which has been in place in this authority for three years? When will those in high places realise that lowering the morale of pupils, parents and staff by making national comparisons of unlike comparators is counter-productive? At the very least, enough elasticity should be built into the straitjacket issued to reporting officers to allow them the flexibility to insert a qualifying statement setting attainment in context.

August 29 10.55am The reporting officer arrives and is welcomed by suitably scrubbed and uniformed senior pupils, who escort her to my room. After introductory remarks, it is presentation time.

I am relieved that in June the reporting officer had suggested that after the initial key points, the presentation could, if preferred, become a dialogue and the basis for discussion for the rest of the day. Yes, day!

We relax slightly for 30 minutes while we eat lunch in my room, at my invitation.

On a tour of the classes, nothing in her expression or tone of voice gives her reaction away. To her credit, her human side does shine through. One group are discussing why they would invite Lars the polar bear to Kilbowie. "Because everyone is happy here," says one child. I beam benignly. Beam becomes beamer as another little treasure pipes up: "Oh no we're not! Duveen doesn't like her new teacher." The HMI smiles.

Our discussions, focused on the school strengths highlighted in the resentation, continue until 3.10pm.

3.15pm A meeting of the staff and HMI begins promptly. No one is left in any doubt about the depth, objectivity or rigour of the inspection to come. Kilbowie is at the forefront (again!) of educational innovation. We are in the first tranche of standards and quality inspections.

The HMI says the inspectors will look for strengths but will find at least five points for action. Attainment will be measured against national standards; assessment of groups of pupils will be carried out by the HMI but not using national tests.

There will be no timetable for the inspection of teaching and learning as unavoidable delays hinder the smooth running of learning programmes. Thank goodness the staff are well prepared for ad hoc visits.

Frequent adult helpers and the ease with which the senior management team and colleagues can observe teaching practice is a strength of the school's design: it was the last new school built by Strathclyde regional council. The staff express concern about how the design of the school, and noise levels in particular, affect the children. The response is clear: the HMI is only interested in how it affects attainment.

The staff are reminded that a sample of jotters has to be provided; an assessment folder containing written English assessment, maths check-ups, science review sheets and any other assessment carried out in the current session will be inspected, together with forward plans.

The meeting ends with an invitation to teachers to meet after school on the Tuesday of inspection week. The reporting officer will be available then in the staffroom. The senior management team is NOT invited.

My discussions with the HMI, including details of the management measures and strategies employed to counteract the negative aspects of the school's design, continue until 5.25pm. It's been a long day.

Sheila Campbell Next week: There is a list of tasks to do in the eight school days until September 11.

Sheila Campbell is headteacher of Kilbowie Primary, West Dunbartonshire


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