A Teacher’s Lot Is Not a Happy One

February 1, 2015 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

I have been at the receiving end of OfSTED in two ways: Firstly as a teacher hounded by senior leaders living in terror of the OfSTED visit and so making our lives as teachers absolute hell on earth. Secondly, as a practitioner additional inspector occasionally taking part in OfSTED inspections and being driven equally mad by endless contradictory demands from an unreasonable series of idiotic and meaningless updates and utterly puerile messages from a rather limited HMCI (Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector) out to get all the kudos possible without any effort or merit. We inspectors work damn hard so that HMCI and his cronies could be recognised in the Queen’s Honours Lists. They then monitor us in a most patronising and heartless way – a practice that we quickly learn and use in our dealings with teachers when we, in turn, inspect them.

Inspectors come into my school for a maximum total of two days. They observe a few teachers for about twenty minutes each and then pass momentous and life changing judgements on their practice – and blithely walk away to the next destructive experience. Of course, these inspectors have already made up their minds before they have even arrived at the school. They do so on the basis of meaningless data that has had the human soul squeezed out of it by statistics, more statistics and damn lies.

These inspectors are incapable of smiling, of making the human connection or of showing the slightest understanding of students or of how students learn. Most of the inspectorate have not even been in a classroom for twenty or thirty years. They have the collective empathy of walruses and the intellectual capacities of a group of monkeys – or worse, of HMIs. I often wonder what the ‘I’ stands for…

After the inspection, they leave the battlefield with teachers’ lives, dignities and self esteem in tatters; with students’ learning and standards severely curtailed and with already useless school leaders rendered utterly ineffective.
And after I, in my inspectorial turn, have inspected yet another unfortunate school, I return to my own school where all is as before: Demoralised teachers, incompetent senior leaders, sponsors ignorant of educational needs and governors who could not make a cup of tea without breaking the bag and choking us on floating tea leaves.

Why do I do it? I am almost sixty and very near retirement (actually I am way past retirement but since my 49th birthday I have been using a new technique for counting the years: to wit 49a, 49b, 49c, 49d… I am almost on 49k or l or m (KLM like the old airliner you know). Soon I shall retire and never see an inspector or a senior leader or a crushed student or an incompetent parent ever again!

What is the solution?

Scrap OfSTED. Send all inspectors and consultants back into the classrooms as teacher trainees for four or five years. Stop hassling teachers. Put the blame for students’ failures where it belongs: on ignorant and immature parents and on a society that does not value learning or on a government that wants compliant robots for citizens.

And leave us teachers alone to do what we are best at… No, not moaning…

But teaching students how to learn, how to flourish, aspire, seek and succeed as independent and questioning citizens… Otherwise, they all risk becoming inspectors or, worse still, consultants or politicians…


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This post was written by Elizabeth Ellis

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