Saturday, 29 October 2011

The webbed fingers of Ofsted

Well - it had been on the cards since I arrived at the school last year. The Ofsted Black Opps squad announced their imminent arrival  last Monday morning. The itchily sweaty wise head, complete with pulsing neck vein matching the ripplingly throbbing one on her temple,  called an emergency lunchtime meeting much to the grumbles and growlings of the Union reps as it intruded on time which is not the Academy's to take.  Regardless, TWH informed a resigned staff of the imminent descent of inspectors via teleport on Wednesday for 48 hours of rampant Ofsteding brought on by rubbish attendance, delusional massaging of figures notwithstanding, and less than brilliant exam figures. Cue a 72 hour mithering mass panic attack to the accompanying Benny Hill soundtrack played on our tinny BSF tannoy.

SLT turned a clammy and sweaty grey / white, they had become drawn and squeaky voiced as the news was delivered. Number 2 a young yet prematurely wrinkled Maggie Thatcheresque clone went into fist punching mode about getting our teaching bases (formerly class rooms) into order and gave a patronising diatribe on the bleedin obvious before curling into the fetal position and frothing on the BSF stain free carpet sponsored by Northgate.  Following the announcement of the impending nervous breakdown we sloped out leaving one or two of the NQTs  screaming to no one in particular as to how they could  get all the books marked by Wednesday. Being poorly mentored they still did not realise that NQT time is different to that of others. The fat women sought solace in Weight Watchers biscuits in the micro staffroom  and the the older wiser hands continued to count down to retirement before 70  doing a mental shrug as the inspections are not like they were.

With the school cracks still covered up from a recentish Open Evening it could have been much worse something like the week long inspired sieges of yore inspired by the not so great friend of Mel - and now mostly forgotten or unheard of Chris Woodhead. He meant well but really messed up a lot of careers and helped bring on the patronising demeaning of teaching as a profession. Nonetheless, with attendance being the biggy, we suspected that Those Upstairs and their made up, self-sought, poorly thought through policies would come under the Cyclops's gaze Ofsteds. Sympathy and empathy were short not least as TWH (increasingly resembling a beleagured female versions of John Major) and her politburo had long lost the staff room resulting in a mass exodus of middle management and NQTs last year.

Insouciance and purpose were feigned at the same time while the school rode a strange undercurrent of fear highlighted, I observed , on my way to the microtoilet near the megaoffice, by  the high-heeled short-haired, good ladies of the Stasi who were busy shredding forests full of paper while the PFI companies who really run the school furtively took out wheel barrowfuls of hard-drives to help the landfill.

News and gleeful rumours about the academy being closed spread around the kids who took  understandable pleasure in pointing and laughing saying how Mrs X was going to get the sack for the crime of trying to enforce high standards, and how they were going to 'dob in' the English department for making them read Shakespeare (gay), poetry (trampy). Understandably they were also making plans to see off the grumpy and shouty witch in charge of inculcating superstition and they were set to expose the rampant crossdressing and  lipstick lesbianism among the male members of the  PE department. It is (or was) on bloody Facebook so it must be true.
A brace of Ofsteds
The Big Days

On Wednesday a weird quiet enveloped the Academy once known as a school. While we all waited for the inspectors to beam down. Little Lucie (the only child known to have read a book in my vertical mentor group) explained to the other Year 7s how you could tell if someone was an Ofsted. She whispered that you had to look out for strangers of well-passed a certain age, in ill-fitting suits, bad ties and scruffy shoes. Their leader is always a lady in bad glasses who has the smile of someone who can't smile and has webbed scaly fingers. The clincher is that they have neither shadows nor reflections. Drawing on past hits her observations were not far off the mark.


So for the days of occupation they were in, my classes were a little tighter than usual, the kids co-operated and conspired for a chocolate. - even the bottom feeders of Year 8 - a classic Daily Mail class of semi-criminal yobs, yobettes - feral would be the mot-du-jour I suppose. Fortunately, the Ofsted came to see me first thing with a second bottom set of Year 9s on the computers when they were still sloughing off the effects of late night Black Opps, bloody Facebook, junk food, drugs and / or  porn. I know my kids and that will be what they remember from their often irrelevant school days.

As weird coincidence would have it my own particular Ofsted had worked in the same part of Asia as I once had and in the very small world that is Expatland  it turned out we had some mutual acquaintances who we had gone drinking and snorkelling with at different times. Lovely. So while we were seeking out common friends and experiences the girls had got round the firewall and were having arguments on bloody Facebook and the boys were looking at football or cars. After 30 mins of idle chat the Ofsted left with a smile.

So that was that - rumours of sightings, visitings, and abductions spread through the days. Idle chat and speculation went from being busted down from Outstanding (with a different head and SLT) to some mean spiritied folk wishing a Fail which is conceivable. Pleasingly, SLT were suitably zombiefied. 

The siege over - initial reports and patronising from the Deputy was that we had lost our Outstanding - nothing to do with the teaching which, being professional, we all knew anyway.