Clearly schools need to be accountable; all children are entitled to a good education and I have never met a single person who doesn’t hold that to be true. However, the current inspection system is a system that is as flawed as it is inhuman and ultimately unrealistic. £207million is spent every year on Ofsted, the equivalent of 5,000 teachers. In fact, Ofsted had become an industry in its own right. If a school is found lacking then Ofsted will very kindly provide guidance and expertise, all at a big fat hefty cost of course. The question that needs to be asked is, instead of paying for teams of inspectors to stay in 5 star hotels and super heads to ‘turn schools around’, wouldn’t it be money better spent if we actually invested it in our communities and cash strapped schools?
It has been revealed that a number of Ofsted inspectors have no classroom experience having held roles as school governors or school secretaries. How easy it is to be an arm chair critic when you have never actually been on the front line. In my twenty six years at the chalk face, I have seen a lot, much of which could make your head spin. Nothing more so though than the number of incompetent senior teachers who are moved on only to reappear six months later, earning more in a week than an average teacher earns in a year, as one of the black shirts of good old Ofsted. I have also seen too many good teachers leave the profession because they can no longer endure the constant scrutiny and pressure.
In the world of Ofsted, all children have to be actively engaged in learning all of the time. If within a lesson any child decides to, let’s say, take a moment to look out of the window, maybe have a little think or, let’s face it, just can’t be arsed then that lesson will not fulfil Ofsted criteria. If a child misbehaves it’s down to the lesson not being engaging enough because, as we all know if children are engaged in learning they will all be happy little bunnies and never dream of misbehaving. I sometimes wonder if Ofsted have confused children with robots because that’s what I suspect they want; robot children and robot teachers to indoctrinate them with dreary, formulaic, planned to the last letter lessons. God forbid if any child should ask a spontaneous question that is not set out within the lesson plan.
The real problem with all of this is the expectation that one size fits all. I have worked in leafy, middle class suburban schools and inner city schools and both pose their own challenges. However, it is ridiculous to suggest that, where education is concerned, it’s a level playing field. It may well be unpalatable but the truth is a child from a dysfunctional, chaotic, impoverished home can not compete with a child from a stable, aspirational home where parents see education as fundamental to a successful life. It is not a question of intelligence and many people from impoverished backgrounds do go on to enjoy great success but, as far as school is concerned, they are at a serious disadvantage.
There is often the misconception that teaching is an easy occupation, that people drift into it for the decent enough pay and the school holidays. All I can say is visit a school and have a look or better yet just open your eyes and look around you, schools are merely charged and often powder keg microcosms of society as a whole. In the last couple of years I have been pushed, spat at, called every name under the sun, had various objects thrown at me and threatened. It’s all part of a job that gets tougher every day. Ultimately though, most teachers keep going because they see worth in kids who see no worth in themselves. I see more of my ex-students end up in prison that at university but the thought that I may have opened just one person’s eyes to the possibility of a better life makes the hassle worthwhile.
The truth is though, I and many other people like me, can’t do it anymore. It’s not the daily abuse or the lack of support from parents. It’s not even the fact that the profession is vilified in the press on a daily basis. It’s the thought of where education is heading that has so many of us running for the hills. The idea that all schools are being forced to adopt a baccalaureate system that will leave lots of students feeling even more alienated than they already do. What purpose can it possibly serve in schools where large proportions of students can barely read and write and, the best education anyone could give them, would be to socialise them and allow them to flourish in subjects that encourage cooperation, empathy and self esteem.
The introduction of the baccalaureate is just another nail in the coffin of inner city schools, yet another stick with which Ofsted can beat them. Ofsted, the single most common reason that I have heard teachers give as the reason they have left the profession. The lackeys of a government whose agenda it is to turn all schools into privately run academies. Education, like everything else is set to become big business. All that money just waiting to be made in school uniforms, stationary, catering, not to mention selling off school playing fields to building companies. Who cares about kids when all this is on offer?
We are living in dark times and, yes, we have survived them before. I fear there will be no coming back from it this time, however. If we stand back while our self serving politicians squander the education of whole generations, it will be too late. I feel old, jaded and sad but ultimately it makes me so very glad that I don’t have children.