Lesson 61 Dread and Dismay

Lesson 61 on Confronting the perfect storm

When Ofsted first started inspecting schools in England, the timetable for their visits was published for a year ahead. This meant that schools awaiting inspection had months to prepare and worry.  It was like a menacing thundercloud approaching from the horizon.

I was based in a small primary school for the year in which they were scheduled for inspection.  Situated on a bleak, windswept estate,  notorious for petty crime and blighted by unemployment, the school struggled against daunting odds.

The first class where I was working was composed of a disastrous mix of personalities.  Some classes miraculously gel as a group, while others manage to rub along together more or less cooperatively, but a very few just get on each other’s nerves, endlessly bickering and winding each other up.

Owen’s class was one of those.

Owen was the chief disturber of the classroom peace.  He was a master of timing. He would wait until everyone had eventually been settled on the carpet, then he would hit out and/or shout at one of his neighbours, accusing them of some incursion into his space.

The same pattern repeated itself when the class was seated round their tables at the beginning of a lesson. Owen would fall off his chair or knock over the materials for the planned activity.  The class would need to be settled all over again. This was not easy, because most of the others had their own difficulties.

Two of the boys kicked, hit and bit at the least imagined provocation. Another continually begged for attention and assistance, unable to face any task alone, but nobody in the class wanted to work with him. One girl was severely undernourished and continually fell asleep. Another was loudly argumentative.  Yet another lived in a world of her own, humming and singing to herself.

Their poor teacher was beside herself with dread and anxiety. At that time the only recognition given by Ofsted to pupil background was the percentage of pupils on free school meals, but the bottom band for this was set at 50% or more.  In Owen’s school the uptake was over 90%.

No way could I have taught that class. Most mornings there was another classroom assistant as well as me, but even the three of us were hard pressed to cope.  It was a perfect storm.

And with this group, Owen’s teacher had to run the gauntlet of naming and shaming by Ofsted.

No wonder she was driven to despair.

To be continued……..