The onus of inspection has shifted - to me!

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
August 2, 2000

Meeting of the senior management team to agree the strengths of Kilbowie Primary.

We know the strengths of the school, but don't think of them in neat packages for each of the seven areas of How Good Is Our School? We also have to categorise our priorities for development in a similar way to complete Appendix 1 of the school profile.

Prolonged deliberation and comparison with the detail of the 33 performance indicators produces 14 strengths matched to the relevant indicators which, with the school development plan, are also to be the basis of the 30-minute presentation to the reporting officer. We have identified 14 points for action, some small, some larger, some linked to the long awaited national guidelines for environmental studies, and the review of assessment.

I could start work on the presentation or could walk out now - and NEVER come back. This feeling recurs often as I discipline myself to collate information, match it to level 4 exemplars in the 5-14 curriculum and samples of good practice in the school standards and quality reports, draft and redraft.

August 3-17

Resentment sets in: the onus of inspection has ineluctably shifted. I am doing the inspection and providing a detailed check list for Her Majesty's inspectors to perform the much less time-consuming task of asking questions to verify the information, so that a tick or a cross can be put against each item.

My blood, sweat and tears are enabling them to move to a generational model of inspection. I'm in the stocks and losing three weeks of my holiday to make their life easy!

Reason sets in: to some extent I am imposing this degree of preparation on myself. The time that colleagues have spent has varied from "two days shut in my office" (you'll guess that that was a secondary school colleague) to two weeks of evenings and nights. Another secondary headteacher across the water apparently boasted of 30 minutes, but then his inspection didn't go too well.

A realistic estimate for presntation alone would be around 10 hours of undisturbed time. This cannot be done during the school day. If the presentation is used to give a comprehensive view of the school and to answer many questions which the HMI might ask during the inspection, time devoted to this could easily treble.

The briefing document states that notes on the presentation are helpful for the HMI, but not mandatory. I recommend to colleagues that it is worth providing information so that surprise questions and the associated stress are reduced.

Every member of staff, teaching and non-teaching, appears at some point during these two weeks, some in pairs to complete tasks they volunteered for - honest! - such as checking information and communications technology and science resources, tidying and checking materials in the closed spaces in school and gutting the staff room.

Thankfully most have NOT spent the whole of July digesting the National Briefing Document Specification for Inspections of Standards and Quality - nothing there to challenge Iain Banks or Maeve Binchy for staff leisure time.

Nor have they lost too much sleep over the Briefing Note for Staff issued in June, which states the school will be inspected in English, mathematics and science as well as in key aspects of management, including target setting, support for pupils including guidance, support for learning and arrangements for care and welfare of pupils, including personal and social development and child protection systems.

All future inspections will follow this pattern, the only differing element being which aspect of environmental studies the HMI will stipulate for scrutiny.

The naked emperors will march relentlessly into all schools in Scotland over the next six to seven years with only three weeks' notice. Will the foot soldiers of Kilbowie Primary survive the onslaught?

Sheila Campbell

Next week: frustration and resentment return.

Sheila Campbell is headteacher of Kilbowie Primary, West Dunbartonshire

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