A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Greg Mankiw on how to choose between Harvard and MIT
Previous entry: Teach better or die!
Monday March 31 2008

"Are schools being inspected to death?” I saw that title on the right, while reading this implausible piece, and thought, hm, another piece about too many inspections and not much improvement.  Worth a look.  I never expected it to be about an actual death:

image

The death of Irene Hogg was, in the normal run of things, a very local tragedy. The popular and apparently devoted head teacher of a small rural primary school was found dead in a remote area, in an apparent act of suicide. The shock resonated within the families of her 81 pupils; flowers were left at the school and her local authority chief spoke of losing one of his most experienced and valuable staff. “The word ‘love’ keeps coming though,” he said. “She was so highly regarded.”

More condolences here.

And there, frankly, the story would usually have ended. The passing of a 54-year-old unmarried woman - a dedicated professional who lived for her job and a round of golf at the weekend - could easily be put down at the door of secret sadness, hidden depression: the myriad private disappointments and inner conflicts that can overcome people at a certain point in their lives. Very sad, of course, but none of our business, and of no larger significance.

But the ripples from Irene Hogg’s death, which would ordinarily have stopped at the borders of her community, have spread. Because in the week preceding her death, two school inspectors came to visit for five days. The head had spent weeks beforehand in preparation, ensuring the school, which she had run for ten years, was at its best. It seems her best was not enough. At the end of their visit, the inspectors told her verbally of their criticisms. No one knows officially what they are, for the report on the school, in the Scottish Borders, will not be published until June.

I wouldn’t like to be writing that report now.

A friend, however, has claimed that the criticisms were “silly”. They are believed to include that a wooded area at the back of the school was not used (when locals knew it was contaminated by dog dirt); and that Ms Hogg was to be reported to the council for not filling in a complaint form. Ms Hogg was apparently angered and “very disillusioned” by what was said to her, and she failed to reappear after the Easter weekend. Her body was found the next night in a lonely part of the hills.

At Kings Cross Supplementary we are constantly inspected, by the parents.  You can see them looking around when they arrive, at the beginning to deliver their progeny, and at the end to collect them.  They listen carefully to what we say about whatever progress we are able to report, and no doubt compare it equally carefully with what the teachers at their regular schools are saying, and with what the children themselves say about it all.

If their conclusions about us are negative, they can cease paying for the service, and cease receiving it.  This means that if there is bad news about KCS, it will come in a trickle, and none of us teachers will be so discouraged that we will contemplate suicide.  If, on the other hand, they decide that their regular schools are not up to their mark, whatever that may be, their only recourse is to purchase help, from the likes of us.

If the parents are satisfied with our efforts, no second guessing inspectors have the power to make us miserable, or if they have I have not been told about it.  “OFSTED” is not a word I have heard mentioned in all my times at KCS.