As has been discussed at length recently, after tragic circumstances, inspections can be stressful experiences - in the preparation, the actuality and the aftermath.
Following our inspection in January, we are pleased to have received a report that is very positive and alludes to many of the school's successes. It gives cause for thought, while acknowledging the hard work and commitment of staff, our support for pupils and families, links to the community and a number of curricular initiatives.
In assessing the experience, I feel that the most effective feedback came from informal comments made to staff by members of the team. For example, recognising the high quality input of our support assistants in an effective pupil support structure, praising the co-operation of pupils and catering staff in promoting healthy eating in a way that has increased uptake of school meals, and remarking on the fact that every staff member and pupil questioned agreed that they were happy to come to school.
Small but insightful comments from respected colleagues from outwith the school can be extremely effective in motivating and validating. Equally helpful was information on best practice elsewhere. I have to record also that after 32 years in teaching and four inspections, this was the year I first heard an inspector laugh!
I shared the report with an Australian colleague who is hoping to visit the school in the autumn and was looking to get an idea of what our system is like. She had a query: how do you measure pastoral care?
Pause for more reflection, and then into my office came Lenny, who left the sixth year two years ago after many difficulties in his life. He explained he had fallen out with his dad and had been sleeping on couches for two months. He needed to find somewhere to live. Our pupil support manager was able to make the telephone calls and take him to the local housing office, where he was put on the right track.
The official said to him: "You're not still at school are you?" "No", he replied. "I went there because I knew they would help me."
Eloquent feedback, I thought.
Sean McPartlin is depute head of St Margaret's Academy, Livingston.