MY DEFENCE for a prose style which I call detailed (and others call long-winded) is that the aim is always to make the meaning clear. There is a risk that in a digest, when a selection of comments is made, the meaning may be altered as a result of omissions of detail or context.
I feel this has happened in terms of my quoted reaction to the inspection of Larbert High School in the articles about the inspection process (TESS, November 12). I should like to correct any wrong impression.
* "Why can't they say excellent, if they mean excellent?" was a question posed by members of the school board, not by staff who, already familiar with the performance indicators in "How Good is Our School?", gained a heightened consciousness of the significance of the adverb "very" before "good" indicating major strengths. In short, staff in schools know "very good" is as good as it gets, but for parents "excellent" has greater force.
* I would not consider the published report to be a "let down" but the process of inspection from notification through to publication is protracted and, yes, there can be a sense of anticlimax when the report is finally published. It is often difficult for people with very high standards - and there are many in Larbert High School - to accept a "pat on the back", and it was in this sense that I spoke of convincing staff that ours was a very good report. A congratulatory letter to the school as well as visit by HMCI Archie McGlynn to meet pupils, parents and staff was a welcome confirmatory gesture. I was surprised that this was omitted from the piece.
* "Very difficult?" The only sense in which I found the inspection difficult was probably self-imposed because of the importance I attached to ensuring the school and everyone associated with it received the very good report I felt they deserved. There cannot be many committed headteachers who do not feel the same pressure in such circumstances. They way the inspection was conducted was exactly as HMI had described it. I have no complaints about that.
* "Jumpy." Well, the poor janitor thought so when he, on his daily tour of duty with the absence list, created disappointmentrelief that it was "only me" and not an inspector. This was nothing other than the "inevitable element of tension and concern" to which Douglas Osler refers in the same feature.
Larbert High School