What do they mean...Intelligent inspection

27th February 2004 at 00:00
Which part of this don't you understand? Ah, you must be an inspector then.

Whatever the opposite of an oxymoron is, this should be one of them.

Intelligence is what we nurture in our pupils: it has to do with observation and understanding, with leaps of thought, lateral thinking, the ability to assess new evidence and reach sometimes startling conclusions which in turn lead us to re-examine what we already thought we knew (I could go on, but bits of me are starting to twitch).

All my pupils do this all the time. I'm sure yours do too. Mine are especially good at it when there is an inspector coming. They have intelligently inspected the consequences of not being intelligent when this sinister twit is standing at the back writing in a notebook and making a pathetic attempt to be invisible, and they have decided that being intelligent and motivated for half an hour or so is better than getting double homework for the rest of term.

They can also intelligently inspect the cash box to see if it's locked, the bike shed to see if Leticia is there (or has been recently), and the head's collection of confiscated bayonets, to see if any of them has suddenly gone rusty. Many of them have police inspectors as role models; this is because they have spent more time with them than they have with me.

The idea that school inspectors might have to be intelligent as well is deeply alarming, at least for the DfES, which is to school assessment what a multiple choice paper is to a doctoral thesis. Faced with lots of neatly ticked boxes, it is a happy department; the thought of sheaves of deeply considered reports, in which key criteria would differ for each institution inspected, has it reaching for its semi-automatic clipboard.

So our trusty inspectors will go on ticking their boxes in the approved objective manner, nodding their heads sagely in a "this hurts me" fashion the while. Only now the inspections will be more frequent, carried out at shorter notice, and "sharp".

Now sharp we can do too, without the inverted commas. Break out the rusty bayonets, boys.


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