(Which big O did you think I was talking about?)
Like a black hole, swooping into a school and sucking all of the energy and enthusiasm out of teachers. Ofsted arrive and suddenly, you’re preparing yourself for the biggest performance of your lifetime. You make sure everything is perfect and you have a back up plan for the back up plans of every possible situation. It’s the only two days in which you preplan your outfit the night before and make sure you have matching shoes ready. You don’t eat or sleep very much. You survive on caffeine and sugar for 2 days. I’m not a huge fan of Ofsted and don’t believe that their judgements have much of a foundation to stand on. They are an unnecessary added stress on an already stressful job.
Being a teacher, a part of you is innately programmed to dispise outside people who walk into your school, solely to judge you on the job that you’ve done day in, day out for so long without their judgement previously. They look into every nook and cranny, make a judgment based on what they see for those 2 days, then leave without a trace. Sometimes, they’ve already made their decision within the first five minutes. It feels equivalent to somebody judging you on converting oxygen to carbon dioxide. How would you feel about somebody judging you on how well you respire? Depending on the sort of inspectors that arrive, depends on how your experience of Ofsted pans out.
My first experience of Ofsted was in my NQT year. We had a HMI inspection that turned into a Section 5 for the second day. SLT didn’t tell us though so I was none the wiser and carried on floating around like a ghost out of its body. Truly, I don’t remember much about the inspection, except that my Grandad was dying at around the same time. I stuck around school for the results of the inspection that Thursday evening, went for a quick celebratory drink and then headed straight to Grandad’s house, where the whole family was sitting around him. My family went home for dinner but were headed back to Grandad’s in the middle of the night for a few more hours. I spent that Friday feeling like a real zombie in school. I hadn’t slept very much in the past 3-4 days whilst we prepared and endured Ofsted. Grandad died on the Saturday immediately after.
My second round of Ofsted was less painful. Nobody died as a result of it. Everyone around me was flapping around like headless chickens whilst I dished out muffins for morale. In my mind, I just kept telling myself that it wasn’t the end of the world, when in fact I was just reassuring myself that nobody was going to die this time. Ofsted came and went and nobody died, at least not to my knowledge. My lesson observation went well and my feedback was positive, although rather rushed due to the inspector having poor time keeping skills. Ofsted left us and we had survived. How I had survived, I have no idea though.
The day that we got the call from Ofsted, his lordship had a meltdown over apples. Monday was apple day in the fruit bowl. We usually had one or two apples left over on the Tuesday. That day was Tuesday and we had oranges instead. Two children chose the last remaining apples and then there was only oranges available. This did not satisfy his lordship though. He didn’t want an orange, he wanted an apple. He threw his coat on the floor and began screaming in the classroom. I sent the children out to play and perched onto a table exasperated. I discussed the possibility of looking in other class fruit bowls to find an apple but couldn’t guarantee an apple. If that was going to be the case, he’d have to settle on what was available and be happy with that. Starving children in Africa would be grateful for an orange and here he was, crying that I couldn’t magically turn this orange into an apple for him. We couldn’t find an apple so he started throwing pencils and pushing chairs over. Eventually, he settled on a packet of raisins that the TA kept in the cupboard for emergencies. I explained he would have a detention for throwing stationery and pushing the chairs over. That very lunchtime, we were told that Ofsted would arrive tomorrow. I made a mental note to buy apples on my way home, just in case he didn’t want a pear, a banana, an orange or a tomato for snack. I put them by the front door so I wouldn’t forget them in the morning.
Everybody laughed when they saw it on Facebook, the night before. I knew it was just a little something that I could do, to ensure that both he and I had an apple that day. Our meagre efforts to keep Ofsted at bay. Playtime was safe from a meltdown. I could relax and concentrate on actually teaching. The thing I would actually be inspected on. I don’t think Ofsted realise the lengths that we go to, just to make our days run smoother. Especially whilst we are honoured with their glorious presence.