I know why the teacher calls the register every morning." Adam announced at the end of his first term at school. "It's to see if anyone is dead." Well, we all know that feeling - particularly at the end of OFSTED week.
A quick head count reveals the staff to be bloody but unbowed. I am expecting the usual spate of post-inspection sick leave. Thank goodness we took out insurance cover for supply staff. The companies are bound to catch on and bump up premiums for any school expecting Reggie and his pals.
It is not the inspection itself that takes such a toll. Like throwing a party for seven-year-olds, it is never quite as bad as you think it is going to be. It's the preparation and the anxiety that are the real killers.
Our inspection came at the end of February. Shortly after Christmas all the required paperwork was completed and submitted, but nevertheless it has been increasingly difficult to persuade the staff to leave the building. They are a conscientious lot at the best of times, usually putting in nine-hour day at school, preparing lessons and marking work when they get home and sneaking in on Sunday mornings to display children's work. There was news recently of a teacher's husband starting a support network for fellow sufferers; and like cobblers' children who are proverbially the worst shod, teachers' offspring must be the least likely to get a bedtime story or help with homework.
Pre-OFSTED, my head teacher reckons 16-hour working days became the norm. The staff had to select work for the inspectors she explained, and draw up lesson plans. They also succumbed to a compulsion to cover every square inch of wall with displays. By the final Sunday morning before inspection I got the feeling that they were all there because they could not bear to be anywhere else. They gathered in silent prayer, casting round feverishly for an undecorated wall. If roses had been in season, they would have painted them.
I must admit to a twinge of anxiety myself, as inspectors have been told to give particular attention to governing bodies this term. At a recent conference the OFSTED representative explained that this was not really an innovation, merely a shift of emphasis.
The objective seemed to be to give Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Bray something different to carp about in next year's report. I don't think I am quoting exactly, but that is the gist of what she said. Yes, she told us, governing bodies were to be given a grade like teachers, but as we would be told neither what the grade was nor how it had been arrived at, there was really nothing for us to worry about. So reassuring.
I took my minded baby with me to my interview with the inspectors. They wanted to talk about the governors' role in raising standards but I managed to divert them onto more interesting topics. Baby George was a great help. While I kept them talking, he sat under the table unfastening Reggie's laces. What a team!
Joan Dalton is a governor in the east Midlands