My recent experiences of an inspection by the Office for Standards in Education revealed the process need not be anxiety-ridden but an opportunity for positive reflection and renewed growth.
Once we had our date, there was the expected preparation and anxieties which some staff contained better than other.
For myself, other schools' accounts and unnecessary media speculation coloured my perspective, as these were often alarmist and overstated.
I was impressed by the professional intent of the entire team of inspectors, ably led by the registered inspector Tim Boyce. We were persuaded that far from coming in to pry unnecessarily and be destructive, the team was here to celebrate our successes and share with us their views on how we might improve.
As the week progressed, any initial fear was soon dispelled. Yes, lessons were closely monitored and there was a thorough examination of all peripheral documentation, evidence, and so on. But the process was conducted in a sensitive, unabrasive and professional manner. The team was courteous and caring towards the staff.
These considerations, however, were never seen as obstacles to objective appraisal of the teachinglearning effort; on the contrary, they facilitated it.
Of course, we heaved a communal sigh of relief when the Friday came, and we now await the full written report.
We are confident that the recommendations will be fair. Equally, we will be keen to respond to any suggestions which will enhance the learning environment for our children.
Maybe we were lucky, or maybe those dark shadows, villainously created to discredit or knock OFSTED, are not justified. In the light of my experience I was convinced by the professionalism and integrity of the team and the process itself.
If schools can somehow adopt this outlook, a lot of unnecessary trauma and worry will be avoided, and energies directed to bettering the prospects for our children.
My mental state might be questioned if I say that an OFSTED inspection can be enjoyable. But enjoyable it was.
FERGUS F O'DONOGHUE Deputy headteacher Blessed Sacrament Junior School Cedar Road Aintree Liverpool