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A Life Less Lost: Chapter 60

'You haven't heard.' She pauses to look at me. 'Amy died. Stan's little girl.'

Kimm Walker returns from holiday to hear devastating news.

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And do visit her Web site http://kbwalker-lifelesslost.blogspot.com/

Arriving home, tired and jetlagged, the house smells of beer and boys. James and David won't meet our eyes. They've had a forbidden party and are clearly shaken by how easily it got out of hand. But they've done their best to put the house straight. There's no lasting damage, nothing carpet and upholstery cleaner won't fix.

I stumble off to the supermarket to stock up on essentials. My brain feels full of cogs all spinning at different speeds, filling my head with clouds of dust and noise. I stand in the brightly-lit fruit and veg section and try to remember what I need, what the coming week will involve. A neon OFSTED warning sign flashes unhelpfully in my mind.


My eyes take a moment to adjust to looking outwards. A short, bustley woman stands in front of me. She's one of the childminders who collect strings of children from school each day.

'Hi, sorry, I've just come back from holiday. I'm not really with it.' I smile and try to dredge up her name.

'I wondered why you weren't at the funeral.'

I don't trust my sluggish brain and can't think what she's talking about.

'You haven't heard.' She pauses to look at me. 'Amy died. Stan's little girl.'

Immediately, I see the timid seven-year-old, her fine blonde hair and open Down's syndrome smile. Everyone loved Amy. Then I think of Stan, my colleague and friend. He and his wife adopted two Down's children, then had a boy of their own. Stan gave up a lucrative law practice and retrained as a primary teacher to have more time with his family.

I sway, darkness creeps round the edges of my vision. I want to sit down.

'How? Why?' It doesn't make sense. Two weeks ago Amy was playing and running, sharing her shy smile. I think wistfully of all the long years when no-one I knew died.

'It was her heart. She'd been in the garden with the family and ran inside to get something. At the top of the stairs she dropped dead. It was a lovely funeral...'

The woman keeps talking but I'm stunned and can't seem to hear. Amy's little brothers both come to our school, what will they make of it all? And her parents, I can't bear to imagine how they must be feeling.

Grief certainly puts school inspections into perspective. We are a very subdued community, as we come together after the break. But irrespective of our tragic loss, this OFSTED experience is entirely different to my previous one. Significantly, my headteacher has confidence in our school's strengths, is aware of our weaknesses and prepared to discuss the strategies we've identified to make improvements. This attitude of looking forward to the inspection, as a possible tool for improvement, filters through to everyone else. Plus, we've all been here before.

The inspector admits that he arrived expecting to give us a poor report based on dismal results in the SAT tests before I came to the school. However, he's impressed by our self-assessments, the improvements we've already made and our plans for moving ahead. He happily lends his weight, via his report and suggested action points, to all that we want to do. Far from coming away from the inspection feeling deflated and exhausted, we're able to steam ahead with renewed vigour.


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