Lesson 90. ‘Twas The Week Before Ofsted..

Lesson 90 on The importance of preparation.

In the early days of Ofsted schools had months to prepare.  They needed the time.  Before then Her Majesty’s Inspectors had been few and far between.  They descended infrequently, like the gods from Mt Olympus, and they didn’t concern themselves with the housekeeping.

But when Owen’s school had its pre-Ofsted briefing from the lead inspector, she had reminded them teasingly that the team would check everywhere.

” We can even look in the cupboards, mind!”

She was a local infant head who had taken early retirement to go in for inspecting. She had bought a new car suitable for her elevated status and taken up power dressing.  Scarcely gods from Olympus material.

In times before Ofsted many schools had lived in comfortable squalor. One secondary I visited had holes in the doors and walls where people had kicked them in. It looked like a scene from a New York police drama, but none of the inhabitants noticed any more.

Owen’s school was always clean, but there was generous storage space, so all sorts of things had been squirrelled away for some future time when they might come in useful.  All that had to go.

The caretaker had an old estate car, so he volunteered to do shuttle runs to the tip.  The cleaners (all local Mams and Nans) put in extra time to ensure every surface was scrubbed and polished. Every lurking old mug or yoghourt pot was expelled from its pit. Pupils joined in, clearing out their desks and drawers, so that no incriminating evidence of non-compliant activity or unhealthy eating could be uncovered.

The biscuit and treat cupboard was emptied for the duration. Without a word being spoken, everybody understood its existence must be temporarily extinguished. If nobody let on, there would be a very big treat at the end of the week!

My fellow classroom assistant was employed as cleanliness checker. I could hear her stern cry of “Hoy it out!” echoing down the corridors.

Neighbouring headteachers who had been recently inspected themselves briefed on the questions their staff and pupils had been asked. If it was felt that the pupils might not understand a particular line of questioning they in turn were primed in simpler terms.

“If one of our important visitors asks you what your hobbies are, he means what you like doing outside school, not just playing out, but other things as well”

“Like what, Miss?”  Mrs Class-teacher was as stumped as the pupils for a minute.

“Reading! He might want to know what books you like.” The class looked doubtful.  “Well, just think of the ones we’ve read and pick one of them!”

Expensive up-to-date equipment that was lacking was offered on loan from other schools, but apart from some items of information technology, this was felt to be a step too far – the pupils would be too intrigued for it not to be obvious.

On the Friday before inspection week the windows pock marked by bullet holes from airgun pellets were replaced.  The school’s exposed position made it a popular target. 

By Monday two more had appeared, but we had done the best we could do.

Zero hour had arrived!