At least three local schools of my good acquaintance have had OFSTED inspections this week – a visit from what my recently-retired attached advisor called the evil empire. So, not to feel left out, we have decided to invite one of our own. Not, of course, from OFSTED, who only really respond to invitations if heavily trailed with bad RaiseOnline and attendance data, neither of which, thankfully, we can provide, but from the diocese of Oxford through the SIAMS program (Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools). We are not due a SIAMS inspection until the summer term 2017, which seems ages to wait, especially since our last one was in May 2012. So we are having one in February after half term, just for fun!
The SIAMS process is intriguing, because it is possible to do it with a minimum of staff and resources and have it hardly touch the school at all. However, we would want the opposite, and the purpose is to find out how transformational of our school the church school ethos, pedagogy, collective worship and leadership have been. I am not interested remotely in a box-ticking exercise. Our current self-evaluation against the inspection standards can be found here.
So it was absolutely wonderful to attend a staff meeting in school last night where our leader of RE and our Director of Spiritual Development both engaged the staff completely in the process of exploring what they thought of and enjoyed in our collective worship, in seeing the relevance and richness of children’s progress in RE, and in beginning to find out what was really effective in the worship that takes place in class.
There are some lovely displays and little “soul spaces” around the building and in classes and children really engage with them. Part of the process of enriching children’s lives is the provision of places and events where they can immerse themselves in the understanding that God loves them, that he is for them and has a plan for their lives that only they can fulfil because of his creative power in them and through them. One of these will be this term’s prayer spaces, scheduled for 5 February and 26 February, linked to the words of the grace, that we say every time we meet.
It makes you wonder what standards we are striving to meet, and once again, we go back to the richness of our agreed vision, rather than any external standard. Wendell Berry often talks about the standard that we want to aspire to is that of community, of love and of hard work, not convenience, efficiency or leisure. Standards we seek are necessarily amateur, not professional, as they have more to do with affection than with the lowest common multiple of “professional standards”.
To see our staff engaging, after all the toughness and struggle of the past couple of weeks, with the opportunity to deepen our Christian identity was rewarding and encouraging in all sorts of ways, and so this comes also with my thanks to Wendy and Helena who led us and inspired us!