There is no such thing as an excellent time for a School Inspection. Trust me; put the academic calendar out onto the map table and share the game with colleagues, namely “choose the best week for a school inspection” and 10 teachers will choose entirely different months for the challenge.
So when ISI, the Inspectorate charged by DfE with checking ISC accredited schools, ring me last week to tell me we are being inspected on Tuesday, I am sanguine about the call for our last week of term, and absolutely ‘up’ for the challenge.
After the week is now passed, the Inspectorate’s judgements are confidential until published. It’s easy to see why. I have been here already 4 times as a headteacher, from 1990 it must be said. Data shared during the visit might be inaccurate. Inspectors’ evidence might ‘trim the sails’ so to speak.
But by way of this gentle statement of gratitude, I wish to commend our visitors for their work. For when a school welcomes 15 inspectors to trawl books, visit lessons, check recruitment, quiz children, 3rd degree teachers, check light fittings and elf/safety and above all live with us for 4 days uninvited, I feel we are entitled to express a view. Well done, ISI team, you have had an excellent visit.
Excellent. Is that a word you use every day? Outstanding, exceptional, mesmeric, fabulous – they are words (it seems to me) of the vanity laden, personality culture of the modern era. If we get education right, everyone will be excellent in terms of their work and outcomes, by their own needs. What we know is that 50% of the children in the country are above average for learning, and that (it’s the way averages work) 50% are below average. There is by the way nothing average about my school; we might not select by ability (we don’t) and we might accept that we select by income (only people that choose to afford us have children in the school), but the look and feel of what we do seems normal and better than that most weeks.
So we have had a visit, heard our outcomes and now are back to normal for the last 3 days. ‘Excellent’, I say, because once the week is done, 7 days of leave commence for me and those that teach within CCS. ‘Excellent, good and splendid’ I say, because our children get a break to enjoy over the 14 days+ of gentle, enforced idleness because schools ‘out’!
Our inspectors as far as they could made themselves ‘invisible’. Actually they were challenging in every question they posed to staff, but left children asking for more after their interrogation. In truth, their task was to avoid controversy but enable veracity. I think they did it well. Inspection, that is. Not writing, of course, because that has to come. But I listened well to what they had to say, and in their diverse ways. My view is that our Inspectors did their job well, and I ‘heard’ my school in the words they spoke. And the words they chose to speak were good to hear.