Whatever. A half-day? A week? They should be so lucky. I remember the old Ofsted Search and Destroy Missions. We were legally tipped off two months in advance. It gave us a nice, large window in which to go quite barking. The whole academic year was ruined in a fever of apprehension, a nightmare of occupation and a fallout of nervous breakdowns. I got drunk and strung out on Rescue Remedy.
Preparation involved yards of pointless paperwork, midnight hours cooking the books, finessing the figures, confecting lesson plans and action plans ‘til world war 3 and bribing the caretakers with the Jameson to get rid of the gum and graffiti on the walls. We had get in by dawn, check a trillion books with positives, plaster the walls with laminations and the whiteboards with Aims and Intentions and send the psychos to Inclusion, a broom cupboard or on offshore leave.
Their absence was my mortgage. I’d put the 8th year under especially heavy manners.
“No nonsense! Or else! Wife and child to support!” I’d put “Little Kevin” on Ofsted Watch. He’d perch by the curtains, checking out the school gates for invasions. They could appear any time and demand the Ofsted 4-Parter. Starter, Learning, Plateau and Plenary.
It went something like this: “Who’s that then, the old Bill?”
I smile, wanly. Inspector doesn’t. He sits at the back, ticking things. The register is conducted in a dry-throated shriek. Class puzzled – and dazzled – by my scrubbed up looks and the strange, teacherly things on the whiteboard.
Even more by the starter, the terrifically interactive, interface learning experience, the nourishing plateau, and the fabulously crisp plenary, to prove we’ve all had outcomes. My 8th year equated “good lessons” with cartoon obedience and preternatural silence, sometimes answering questions before I’d asked them and sometimes offering random encomiums like: “You’re just as good as usual, sir!” – Decibelle.
“He’s the best teacher I ever had!” – Shaka.
I didn’t pay them. I once got “outstanding”. A travesty. Still, it saw Ofsted off and we soon returned to our more usual, spontaneously creative chaos. Shameless, I know. Still, not as bad as these alleged “tip-offs”.
Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.