Right ethos for an inspection?;Leading Article;Opinion

4th June 1999 at 01:00
FEW HEADS and even fewer classroom teachers do more than grind their teeth privately about an unsatisfactory inspection. But not every report by every inspector is going to meet with approval. That of course can be because those who are criticised resent or disagree with the verdict. Even if a report appears wrong-headed, however, public criticism of the process leading to it would smack of sour grapes, and might meet with the disapproval of the local authority.

But whereas most heads remain tight-lipped, Bill Ball of Cramond primary in Edinburgh has publicly taken on HMI (page six). Ironically, his platform was the conference of the Scottish Schools Ethos Network, whose award his school picked up last year.

Mr Ball did not specifically say that what had been commended by respected and disinterested evaluators had not been good enough for the HMI. But he claimed the positive ethos among staff had helped minimise the effects of an unsympathetic approach and findings. They would have been more stressed if they had not had the ethos award to hang on to.

More important was Mr Ball's attack on how HMI framed the report. Whereas teachers are repeatedly told, not least by HMI, to offer pupils encouragement as well as pinpointing weaknesses, staff were left in the dark about their strengths, and that had been particularly debilitating. Even in these days of open government, the Inspectorate is unlikely to enter into public dialogue. For the sake of other disillusioned teachers that is a pity.

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