The Ballad of Ofsted

All is quiet – even 9j4 are dedicated to their task, murmuring to each other as they work. Outside in the corridor doors bang as a student walks past on an errand. A colleague stops by my classroom to ask a question as I keep a wary eye on the exploits of my class. Spontaneously up and down the school our emails bing – an emergency staff briefing at the next available break – what could it be?!

The rumours and whispers are rife, but like a chain, the word is heard: Ofsted, Ofsted, OFSTED.

The briefing confirms what many colleagues had guessed – tomorrow morning they will be here. Some colleagues roll their eyes – they’ve seen it all before and adopt a studied nonchalance of ‘what will be will be’. This is a thin disguise for the horror and sick feeling in the pit of the stomach of all teachers who hear the word: Ofsted.

Your SLT will urge you – ‘don’t change anything.’ Hmmm. This will not stop you spending several hours after school getting together all the info you need for the next two days, and spicing up your lessons to include whatever it is Ofsted will be looking for this time – rolling plenaries, mini plenaries, three part lessons, five part lessons, six part lessons, meta cognitive learning, literacy, numeracy, group work, independent learning, PLTs…the list is endless, contradictory, confusing.

At 6:45am the next morning the car park is already filling up. A usually unflappable colleague runs past main reception as I sign in screaming ‘THERE’S NO MORE PRINTER PAPER! WE CAN’T PRINT ANYTHING OUT!’ The admin office is ransacked, we even attempt to break into the reprographics office.

Another staff briefing – morale boosting, SLT smiling tightly to try and hide their worry and their sleepless night. Then to the day: Ofsted.

The baited breath as someone in a suit walks past the door – the sigh of relief as you realise it is a member of SLT giving a reassuring smile. The poorly concealed nerves as you try not to snap at a student for talking. The ache as you think ‘oh just come in already!’ The blind fear when finally, finally they come in, and look through your data. The annoyance when they speak to the one student in your class who never, ever listens. The enormous pride as even the most reticent student in your class puts their hand up to answer a question. The smiles of the students at you as they demonstrate progress (you think – but as always it is unclear exactly HOW Ofsted want you to demonstrate it).

The speculation on your corridor – ‘have you been seen? So and so has been seen TWICE.’

And then the walk to an office to receive your feedback. The group of anxiously pacing colleagues as you all wait, asking each other how you think it went – no-one seems confident enough to say.

The ballad of Ofsted – or 48 hours of fear. Being judged as a teacher, and as a school, on a 25 minute snapshot of one lesson with any one of your classes they have chosen. The scrutiny of your data to see whether the students have made enough progress. The feeling of being ill-prepared.

The ballad of Ofsted – is there a better way?

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