Carnival is over, Ofsted

15th September 2006 at 01:00
I made several attempts during the summer to forget our noble profession and France proved especially useless in this respect.

The whole country had plainly been converted for the holiday into one enormous school staffroom. For every other caged hen clucking in a local market, I overheard the distinctive timbre of another teaching colleague slowly correcting their surplus order of cheese.

A slightly dotty town carnival in a remote and ravishing corner of England was surely a safer bet. A brass band led decorative trailers offering the usual Women's Institute members dressed as French maids, Elvis lookalikes, Grease routines and awkward-looking beauty princesses.

Then followed a float of children from a primary school, dressed up and flitting around sweetly as butterflies, bees and ladybirds. At first glance, it was a refreshing scene of pupils just enjoying some pointless, non-assessed fun.

But then our eyes diverted from these playful garden beasts and fell upon a banner running along the top of the school's trailer. Instead of some suitably cheery message on the lines of "All the wildlife at this school wish you a merry carnival", some headteacher of our time, driven by those familiar dark forces now beyond a head's control, had plainly stepped among all the flora and fauna and suggested an addition to the garden.

So billowing in the breeze were giant-size extracts from the school's latest Ofsted report.

"That's it. I've seen it all now" pronounced one spectator in despair and disbelief.

Beaming crowds found themselves gripping each other's sides at such hilariously madcap lines as: "The school's curriculum gives a wide range of experiences to encourage pupils to enjoy learning." And: "The school's caring approach strongly promotes pupils' well-being."

Of course. How naive of us to have imagined that a summer town party would be a simple, carefree frolic where you could forget about the quality of good old "teaching and learning".

Nowadays it is an obvious marketing opportunity. The carnival need not be over, but there plainly needs to be more of an educational input these days.

I gather that Ofsted itself is planning its own carnival float for next year as part of its latest rebranding. Those supposedly ageing inspection teams are poised to turn back the clock and run through a few song and dance routines from Les Miserables.

"This musical is generally good with some outstanding features" will run the banner above.

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