The day my life changed - I sacrificed being with my mum in her final hours to get a 'good' from Ofsted

1st April 2011 at 01:00

It was December when we got "the call"; Ofsted was on its way the following week. It had been my mum's 84th birthday two weeks before. We showered her with celebrations but she wasn't herself. That was when we realised something was wrong.

She had been diagnosed with bowel cancer at the beginning of the year, but had been suffering from Alzheimer's for four years. As an only child, I always found it hard to find time to look after my mum, raise a family and teach full-time.

I had lost my dad 25 years earlier, so I visited my mum and had her round to my house as much as possible. In 2004 she had fallen and I'd realised that she wasn't strong enough to live alone, so had reluctantly found her a nursing home.

When she was diagnosed with cancer Macmillan nurses visited and explained the illness. She was too old to treat so she had strong pain killers to ease the pain.

By the autumn she had become weary and tired, not her usual cheery self. This worsened on her birthday, but I thought it was tiredness and that she would get stronger. After Ofsted called, my mind was so preoccupied that I didn't see my mum that weekend.

I went into the school on the Monday, prepared for the inspection. Then Mum took a turn for the worse. The care home contacted me, but I was so distracted at school that I didn't react immediately. My husband was away on business and my two older daughters were at work.

Eventually, the carers called my youngest daughter, who had a throat infection and was at home that day.

She rushed to my mum's side and stayed with her throughout the day. I went straight there after school and spent the evening with my mum, who was drifting in and out of consciousness.

The Macmillan nurses came that evening, which is when we realised it was serious. We left late in the night and I was with her again at five o'clock the next morning, before leaving for school two hours later.

Despite the doctor's reassurance, my mum was in huge pain and discomfort. The medication wasn't working.

Things got worse and my daughter called in panic while I was being observed. I stayed and taught to the end. After all, it's Ofsted, I thought, it's a big deal. I was too proud to walk out on my school and abandon my class halfway through an Ofsted inspection. In hindsight, I should have done just that.

When I made it to my mum's bedside she was wailing in pain, despite still being unconscious. I was shocked at the sight of her. She looked awful. I lifted the bottom of her bedcovers to look at her legs. They had already turned blue. As I looked at my daughter and saw the fear on her face, I realised it was the end.

I took her hand and spoke to her. We feared she was fighting death so we told her to give up and meet my father. It was unbearable to watch her in any more pain.

Her eyes then shot open wide and she looked at me. She tried to shout something, but we didn't know what she said. The words didn't come out.

My daughter says she was trying to say goodbye, because a few minutes later, not long after I arrived, she passed away.

I still to this day fear that she was shouting at me, telling me off for not being with her. I will carry that guilt with me for the rest of my life.

I had completely neglected myself and my family to deliver what was, eventually, a "good" Ofsted inspection. It is funny how meaningless that becomes when I realise what I gave up. If I could do it all again, I would stay with my mum and spend a precious few last hours together.

As told to Georgia Laird. If you have an experience to share, email

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today