I've got a problem with monitoring my teachers. I don't mean I can't do it - I just don't see the point of it. During our last Ofsted, the registered inspector (who hadn't taught for many years) asked how much time I spent monitoring teaching. I said I monitored constantly. I chat to children in the playground at lunchtime every day. I discuss work when I pop into classrooms on errands. I talk to teachers at breaks and after school. I see parents, and I teach regularly. So I have an overview of progress. I said spending lots of time with children was the finest indicator of how the teachers were doing.
Apparently, though, this wasn't proper monitoring. To do it correctly, I had to sit in a corner of a classroom taking notes to be filed in a binder for important people to look at. Needless to say, Ofsted failed my monitoring abilities.
Since then, I've tried. I really have. It seems the right way forward is to plan my monitoring sessions so that everybody goes under the microscope regularly. I need to inform a teacher that I will be monitoring her that day, study her lesson plans (which should be very detailed), sit in the corner with clipboard and pen, and ensure she carries out these plans. If she doesn't, I criticise her sense of pace - because Charlie asked her an interesting question that led off at a tangent; if she does, I criticise her for giving Charlie a short answer. After school, I sit with the teacher, and I tell her what she's done well, to lull her into a sense of false security. Then I home in on what needs to improve. She'll be grateful, and rush home to rewrite her lesson plans for the rest of the term.
Okay, I'm cynical. But when I explained to the staff that Ofsted had suggested my monitoring should be more formal, my youngest teachers groaned. "That's what we've moved here to get away from," they said. "We had all that at our last schools and it didn't help at all." One said he'd even had the head and deputy monitoring him simultaneously.
I visited a nearby school I admire. "I've had that stuff about monitoring too," said the head. "I spend one session a term in each class and write a 'visit sheet' afterwards. I say nice things - because I've appointed good staff and I know them well. I photocopy each sheet three times and file them in this." She lifted a binder from a shelf. "Ofsted didn't look at it. They were impressed because it's full of paper - that's what it's about."
I monitored for a term before I went back to more important things, such as teaching music and producing the school play. Wearing my monitoring cap, I joined in some superb lessons. Nobody resented me being there, and the children were pleased. But I learned nothing new, and discovered no hidden defects in my teachers. After all, even Ofsted had said that of the 90 lessons they'd seen, only three were unsatisfactory.
Dedicated teachers will want to improve constantly. They'll attend courses and spend time with colleagues to find ways to improve their skills and, because they are fascinated by education, they'll soak it up like a sponge. Dedicated teachers will stay that way throughout their careers, despite the fashionable claptrap piled on their shoulders every few years.
Being monitored by somebody who's abandoned the classroom for the clipboard is the last thing they need.
Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org