Ready or not, here they come

19th May 2000 at 01:00
Brenda Roe and her school are braced for OFSTED inspection....

SO, the start of summer term, but not the flowering of any new optimism. What is thriving, the closer O-day gets, is the feeling that our few weaknesses could rise up and devour the school.

Before Easter the big boss (the registered inspector) set the date for the pre-inspection visit, during which he will interview the head, staff, and parents and hold a meeting for governors.

As our merry band features only two souls not otherwise

connected with the school, we're unsure if those who wear two or more hats are expected to attend each audience. Pity our poor teachergovernorparent who at the time of the pre-visit visit will be marking key stage 1 tests.

It's down to us governors to organise the parents' meeting and distribute the questionnaire, maybe the most important role we will play in the whole process, as the answers will form the inspectors' preconceived ideas.

We have to make sure enough parents gather on the day to give the impression that we are a strong community, but not so many that they look deserate to air grievances. We also have to invert the laws of nature and

persuade enough reasonably

content parents to fill in the questionnaire, so their views balance those of the minority malcontents.

Unfortunately, over the past few weeks that other role of governors - the "critical friend" - has been thrust into the limelight. I can only guess what effect Mr Woodhead's recent incarnation as obituary writer has had in the staffroom, but his refusal to accept that OFSTED inspectors hold any blame for the suicides of Pamela Relf and others, must have raised hackles.

It now appears that inspections are not a matter of life and death, but far more important. With such attitudes at large, is it any wonder that teachers cave in under the pressures, knowing that some horrible fate, if not the final tragedy, lies just around the corner? Maybe governors should, at such times, drop the "critical" part of the label and just go with "friend"? There are enough critics out there to satisfy even Mr Woodhead.

Brenda Roe is a governor and parent at an inner London primary school

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