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English - The home front

Blood, sweat, tears and toil ensure victory when Ofsted calls

Blood, sweat, tears and toil ensure victory when Ofsted calls

The enemy was fast approaching. The wail of an air raid siren sent us scurrying for cover. Clutching gas masks, we crouched in the darkness and waited as the drone of approaching bombers grew louder. "OK, children, I want you to climb out from under your tables and talk to your partner for one minute about how it felt to be caught up in a Second World War bombing raid."

Two days earlier, at a hushed emergency staff meeting, we had received the news that in 48 hours an Ofsted inspection team would be invading (I mean visiting) us. The spectre had been hanging over us all year. But it's not until you see the grey-suited convoy proceeding down the corridor that the reality hits.

Nothing galvanises teachers like the prospect of everything they have worked for over several years being laid to waste. A new fighting spirit was born, courage and comradeship flourishing like poppies along with a daring resolve to overcome adversity.

It requires a leap of faith to take risks when you work in a socially disadvantaged school where learning is not always at the top of every child's list of needs. And when Ofsted calls, it's all too easy to feel overwhelmed and to opt to do something safe and predictable. But with "satisfactory" no longer satisfactory, raw courage is what's required.

Or possibly luck, I thought, finding myself being observed teaching the Year 4 class studying the Second World War. Part of my remit in school is to deliver literacy through drama. And my task this day was to carry out role play activities prior to the children writing a play about an air raid.

Asking a bunch of eight- and nine-year-olds to wear gas masks and pretend they are in the war while terrifying sound effects are played in the background is not the hardest way to engage them in their learning. And my post-observation feedback was of the view that this sort of drama-based activity is in fact a fabulously exciting way of doing this. Phew!

But war is a dangerous business, and a scary moment came when the CD player unexpectedly cut Churchill off in mid-flow. This might have been my darkest hour until, in my gravest voice, I intoned, "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds ."

Well, you know what they say: desperate times call for desperate measures - which, incidentally, isn't a new Ofsted category.

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield


Some useful Second World War resources are available at

Get pupils to make their own gas masks with a resource from annalouiseb. Or introduce them to the who's who of the Second World War with craigkeiller's introduction.


Teachers are debating how best to manage the marking workload in the TES English forum. How will you reduce the burden?

Find all links and resources at

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