Lesson 59 on Learning to fool the system
In the dim and distant past, when I sat my Scottish Higher Leaving Certificate in Latin, teachers were not required to be sensitive to the self-esteem of their students. After we got our results, the Latin teacher read out all our grades in class and commented on them. Coming to my name he paused, then pronounced his verdict on my five years of study in his department.
“And Annie Wilson passed! My, but it’s marvellous what native wit can do!”
And native wit was what schools fell back on, when Ofsted inspection was first introduced. The first response was not to think “How can we improve our practice and achieve true excellence?” but rather, “How can we get through this, without showing ourselves up?”
The expressed intention of the new inspection system was to “Name and Shame”, so straightaway schools went into defensive and damage limitation mode. I was sent by my institution on the first round of Ofsted training, specifically to find out how to play the game. They could then rent out my new skills to train others in how to navigate their way through the process.
Educational institutions cynically recognised that your level of success in external assessment depended on knowing the rules and understanding the marking system. You needed to learn how to package the goods.
Nobody expected to be able to transform a really grotty school into a beacon of excellence by skillful packaging alone, but it was a truth universally acknowledged that it was possible up your game and scrape your way from a fail grade into the safe haven of satisfactory.
Native wit and ingenuity can get you more than just a C in Higher Latin.