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Observed to oblivion and back

Another twilight workshop. "The giraffe challenge: an experiential activity that explores peer assessment." A nervous woman is boring us. It ends. She gives out sheets. Mark sheets. We must mark her out of seven. I give her seven - it would be poor form to do otherwise. Oh dear. My mistake. Seven is the lowest mark. Hope she's not fired.

It's everywhere, this observe-and-sneak culture. Someone somewhere is snitching on us. There are two-way mirrors, one-way mirrors, CCTVs and consultants with their clipboards.

Managers call it "supportive".

Mary Bousted, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, calls it "punitive". The NASUWT teachers' union calls it "bullying". Some heads call it being "observed to death". Well, not quite, but certainly to the screaming abdabs, booze and beta-blockers.

Whole departments have thrown in the towel. Art. History. And now English.

We were deemed "good". For years. Now suddenly we're failing something or other. I get Inspector Vholes. And always with Year 8. Ritalin-drenched Year 8.

In he comes. Welcome to our little troubled world of learning. "Who he, sir - a copper?" yells the clot Crumlin. Vholes does a hangman's smile. Most of the brats elect themselves mute, sweetly equating good behaviour with military silence. This doesn't make it easy to flag up the full range of my interactive oracy strategies.

Dave Mania is late. "Sorry I am not punctual, sir - I had to take Brains for his walk. I have done my homework because you are so strict!" I try to keep a straight face.

I give it the full Ofsted - with plenary. I am marked "satis". Yippee! I'm later told that this means "unsatis". Tricky stuff.

Mr Vholes returns. Again and again. It wears us out. The brats relax. Dolly the Traveller cuddles up to him. "All right then, mate?" Vholes is rarely all right, mate. He shuts down all empathies and ticks a box. Decibelle wonders why he keeps showing up. "Is he one of them special needs? Or is it 'cos you's rubbish?"

Then the design and technology department gets "supported". It collapses.

Especially my chum Claire - a terrific teacher. Vholes observes her relentlessly. It does Claire in. She is pregnant. She gets sick. She is deemed "unsatis" - because "a boy went to the toilet". Vholes is simply wrong. There were no boys in the class. It was a cover lesson. Claire wasn't even there. She was off sick again.

But finally she jacks it in - like so many good teachers who've been observed to death.

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