Another nail in the scrutiny coffin

Tes Editorial

It's the world turned upside down. The boot on the other foot. You can go as metaphor-mad as you like with the latest twist of the observations knife: junior inspectors. But, even then, you won't quite reflect its particular brand of wackiness.

A while back, FE Focus ran an article about Chichester College, which was using student volunteers to sit in on lesson observations. It didn't strike me as a particularly good idea at the time, but at least Chichester's volunteers were working alongside "grown-ups" - and they weren't handing out grades.

Fast forward to the new year, and bingo! Bexley Grammar School in Kent has decided to go one better. It's piloting a scheme in which 17-year-olds play at being inspectors and hand out Ofsted-style grades to teachers. In fact, they're taking the whole thing so seriously that they've bought in the services of a real Ofsted inspector to give sixth-formers tips on what to look for when "inspecting". Whether they are issued with "inspector hats" we are not told.

We all know, though, that what happens in schools has a nasty habit of turning up some time later in colleges. So it's not impossible to contemplate that, a year or two down the line, a scene like the following could be playing in a college near you.

the feedback session. There is a knock on the door. Darren sits with his feet up on the desk, a large fries and Coke at his elbow.

"Come," he barks (or rather squeaks). A nervous-looking middle-aged man shuffles in. "Jenkins, you're five minutes late, but we'll let that pass this once."

"Thank you, Darr. I mean Inspector."

Darren grabs a mouthful of fries, washing it down with a generous swig of Coke. "Now then, that class of yours was a bit of a shambles, wasn't it?"

"I thought it went rather well myself."

"Not from where I was sitting it didn't. I mean, what was all that stuff from `back then' you were going on about?"

"It's called history, Darr. Inspector. That's generally what you try and teach in a history lesson. And the First World War didn't happen yesterday."

"But, Jenkins, this is now: 2008. The present. You've got to make it relevant to today's youth."

"Actually, I thought I was doing just that by bringing in my actor friend dressed up as an infantry soldier from the period."

"Look, Jenkins, it says here quite clearly that a good lesson uses interactive learning techologies - ILT! Couldn't you have given them a virtual soldier instead? You know, up there on the big screen. That's what they're used to."

"Well it's a point of view. But didn't you notice, Inspector, there wasn't a smartboard installed in that room?"

"I'm sorry, Jenkins, but that's just an excuse. And we at Ofsted don't deal in excuses. By the way, are you chewing?"

"Er, yes. I was a bit nervous about this session."

"Sounds like another excuse to me. Put it in the bin, Jenkins. You know the rules. Now, if you'd been really resourceful, you'd have asked that Earl Haig bloke you were wittering on about to come in and talk to them instead. Sounds like he might have been a bit of a trendy musician with a name like Earl."

"Actually, I'm afraid he died in 1928, Inspector."

"Well, there's your ILT opportunity, Jenkins. Send them all off to the learning centre to look up his page on MySpace!"

"Funnily enough, I didn't think of that."

"Yeah, well, that's what us inspectors are here for - promoting knowledge. Raising standards. Now, where was your diff. differ."


"That's the jobby. Differentiation. It's number three on my list."

"Didn't you notice, Inspector, that when we did the group work they all had different tasks?"

"Yeah. I suppose if I was in the class I'd have been in with the dumbos, measuring that bomb thing."

"It was a shell casing. A five-nine - 5.9 inches in diameter. That's what they were measuring. Help to bring home the reality to them."

"Here, that's very good, Jenkins. I've just noticed it on the list. It's called `embedding numeracy'. And you've done it. So now I won't have to give you a fail grade for the lesson after all."

"Thank you very much, Inspector."

As they both get up to leave, Darren has an afterthought. "Oh, and by the way Jenk. I mean, Sir. My homework will be late. I'm having problems with my printer again."

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