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The school gates: a play by Ofsted

"Morning, Mrs Smith. Monday and back at the school gates again. How was your weekend?"

"Very interesting, Mrs Jones. I read that parents will soon be able to trigger an Ofsted if there's enough evidence. We just give them a call, and they do a risk assessment ..."

"I thought that was the 15-page form a teacher fills in before her class goes swimming?"

"There's lots of different kinds, Mrs Jones. When Ofsted do one, it means they look up all the data on a school and that tells them if it's failing. All part of accountability, safeguarding and the technological revolution, you see."

"Well, I haven't been happy about what's going on in this school for some time."

"Nor me, Mrs Jones. You know what my Cynthia did yesterday? A painting!"

"A painting? Our children don't come to school to do a painting. That won't get them a job, will it? They should have their noses to the grindstone, concentrating on getting a level 4. Your Cynthia won't get a level 4 wafting about with pots of paint and a brush."

"Tell me about it, Mrs Jones. But it gets worse. The class spent last week learning about Aztecs and making masks and stuff. Don't know what that teacher was thinking of. I said to her, 'I want to know whether my daughter has reached the first quadrant percentile for the mean average of her age in the national median percentage calculation, not whether she can cut up a bit of cardboard.' Ofsted needs to have a word in her ear."

"It's the same in my Tommy's class. They've been play-acting, of all things. Working with some bloke from a local theatre. I told my Tommy, 'You do enough play-acting at home, son, never mind doing it at school as well.' He should be parsing his clauses, recognising genres and deliberating on his learning intentions, not wasting time on Shakespeare, playing Portfolio."

"Absolutely, Mrs Jones. I stopped the headmaster in the corridor the other day and he offered to discuss the curriculum. Shocking. Too much time on his hands. He should be checking his data and monitoring his teachers with a clipboard in the Ofsted-approved manner, not smiling and talking to people. Then he said he couldn't talk any more because he was off to teach a violin group. Says he follows the Yehudi Menuhin school of thought that learning instruments is good for small children. Whoever Yehudi Menuhin is."

"Well, he can't be keeping a proper eye on his teachers if he's wandering about teaching children himself. I heard he told Mrs Brown he trusts his teachers to do a good job. I bet Ofsted would have something to say about that."

"They'd soon wipe the smile off his face, Mrs Smith. Especially when we tell 'em about the bullying that's going on. Those teachers pick on my Andrea. Just because she won't get into line when the whistle blows. Running about is her thing, so why can't those teachers appreciate that?"

"Quite right, Mrs Jones. And you know what? Mrs Brown's Alfie has had four school sweatshirts this term already. Lost the lot. Why can't these teachers keep an eye on things? You know what his teacher said? Put his name in 'em. As if we've got time to run around putting names in sweatshirts. Ofsted will need to have a stern word."

"They certainly will, Mrs Smith. Now Ofsted has got people like us helping them, we'll soon have education sorted out ..."

Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, south London. Email:

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