It's strange isn't it - how just before an OFSTED, our SMTs begin to look worried ... what do they do then?- they call in a consultant [more likely a gaggle of them] to come and sort out their problems or to test run an inspection at the school ... suddenly money is no object
In a similar spirit Education Worker has called one up too - after all being inspected by OFSTED or HMIs 6 times, and being graced by visits by other educational experts another half dozen times, in 30 months gives the type of experience only a redundancy cheque can buy
* What are some of the effects of being inspected?
It's a lot of work isn't it ... but the effects are not evenly spread, nor always obvious - for example an SMT busying itself with documentation simply hasn't the time to follow up effectively on assaults on students or staff - so the net effect is to harm the health and safety of workers on site. Similarly, if there've been a lot of exclusions already, then these will be reduced to keep the statistics looking good - or even worse, if a head teacher has slack in the figures, they can start a campaign of clamping down on certain kids - so that they can get excluded for things that they never would have usually.
[and what is the end result of this, largely undiscussed, paper work ... well their usefulness as sleep inducers as one tries to memorise them for the OFSTED interview is undisputed!]
This, and the heightening workload, the sudden appearance of long ordered things like blinds, new chairs, new computers help create a state of tension within the school ... and the new things in the classroom when they aren't just giving the kids something new to play on, also press home the message to the children that the only time they are valued materially is when the inspector is about to call - the similarities to Stalinist whitewashing are all too apparent.
For rank and file teachers the workload emphasis is primarily on documentation. This is often a huge task - witness the rise in sickness before an OFSTED visit - made worse when people are new in post. This work does not of course address the interests of the students concerned.
Likewise the need to massage the attendance statistics will mean that form tutors spend a lot of time following unauthorised absences to try and peg the bunking % to a reasonable level, rather than addressing the reasons for school resisters in the first place.
And this list is just the beginning ...
Of course all of these problems are heightened in inner city schools - the job is harder to begin with given the nature of the students that we work with - and a lot of schools operate with non existent documentation, high levels of violence and unauthorised absences and poorly maintained buildings ... it's in this context that schools already struggling to do well for their kids are faced with a more frequent inspection regime ... gee thanks - just what we needed
* What type of support can we expect from our LEAs?
The old line about supporting a hanging man is appropriate really - if you can find an LEA advisor who is willing to steal you Schemes of Work then you're in luck - more often than not they are there to harass.
I've heard some classic lines from these inspectors ... for example 'Materials ... you want teaching materials? oh I can't possibly do that' - still if you're rude you can often scare them away ...
* What does that mean for education workers who are teachers?
From September with the grading of staff, the designation of schools as failures will be individualised ... but of course what is not recognised is that one severe disruption is enough to limit the lesson to a satisfactory result ...so that many of us are behind the eight ball from the word go. Likewise, an SMT may be so relieved to have avoided failing the overall inspection that they are unwilling to query the failing and naming of individual teachers. All this in a context where given the snap shot nature of inspections, teachers who are new in post are treated the same as the teachers who have been there so long they are the posts ...
* Is there a strategy behind these inspections?
Conspiracy theories aren't much help here - better to look at the real effects - who is getting attacked and which children are losing out.
While the inspectors say they are defending high quality education for working class kids - the acid test would come when they resign from their cushy jobs and come and work here. Many of them [the nastiest know it all ones at that] did .. but in the halcyon days of the 70's and 80's when the kids had the hope of a job to go to and the social security system didn't mean that many of the kids come to school hungry.
Why is it that working class kid's education need to be attacked - because it's at school where the connections are made that will help them survive a lifetime of crap jobs, giros and barricades. Disrupting this process is key to the strategy of keeping the cities under control in Britain next century - and Hackney Downs School is a prime example of who loses from the OFSTED process. After the inspectors closed that school - in it must be remembered a cross party team - many kids ended up in no school at all ...
It's also no surprise that the inspectors are attacking the most traditionally militant areas of the NUT - Lambeth and Waltham Forest for example being picked for carpet bombing / inspection last year - and does Doug the Slug [unbeloved leader of the NUT] give a fuck ... no he's laughing all the way to re-election as his opponents are being put under pressure for the national government - that's why he didn't do anything to support Hackney Downs Teachers except sort out their redundancy cheques.
* OK - all that's clear - in fact we could have worked it out ourselves - so why are we employing you as a consultant?
That's easy - You've been sucked by the teacher = professional gag too. The worse our conditions become the bosses, the NUT [and especially NASUWT, ATL etc.] and inspectors will crap on about professionalism. One pamphlet which McAvoy sent to us last year to convince us not to strike mentioned it 10 times.
In many ways what we are seeing is a whole set a of new divisions between education workers being opened up - between teachers in the shires who'll face inspection once every 6 years - 'defended' by NASUWT's exclude them quick approach to students with problems and buffered from the effects of budget cuts by relatively better off parents ... teachers for whom professionalism [and Tony Blair no doubt] still means something.
Then there'll be teachers in the inner city facing yearly or more frequent inspections, rising immiseration of our students and their parents, the abolition of section 11 support staff and the increasing use of short term contracts ... 'professionals'? ... get real!
Isn't it time, workers in this situation began to face up to the realities of the situation - they have ten times as much in common with the other workers in, and the users of the services, where they work than with the middle ground that McAvoy and DeGrouchy are fighting for membership in.
The chalice of professionalism is poisoned - once you've been failed by OFSTED the more you scream about professionalism the bigger the hole you're in. Professionalism is what stops a lot of 'ordinary working class people' from wanting to support teachers. And professionalism is the thing that stops a lot of teachers taking the industrial action needed to defend jobs and services - especially once the inspectors have labelled a school or teachers as failures [and therefore 'unprofessional'].
It's not as if the status of teachers as professionals came about because of a great industrial campaign in any case - in fact it was finally granted by the government in the early 20's at a time of massive wage cuts and the defeat of militant teachers. That's the type of professionalism that Chris Woodhead and co would like to see.
That was worth 50 quid an hour wasn't it?
Now I get to ask a question - how many inspectors does it take to change a lightbulb?
They don't change lightbulbs - they get all the light they need from Chris Woodhead's arsehole to write their reports!
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