Go, go gadget lovers. The inspectors are coming

5th March 2010 at 00:00

The email arrived yesterday at 1.15pm. I was halfway through my Greggs' pasty when it bleeped into my inbox. Addressed to "all staff", it formally requested that we attend an 8.15am meeting in the hall the following day.

It could mean one of three things: the ritual sacrifice of an NQT for flouting the procedures governing the correct use of the photocopier; a three-line whip on the forthcoming PTA wine and cheese evening; or Ofsted.

Since the former was usually heralded via a gruff email from the resources manager and the withdrawal of the school's photocopying privileges for a month, it was either a demand that we stock up on own-brand Chardonnay or a visit from the people in black.

At 8.14am, the head confirmed it was Ofsted. Those who had experienced the last PTA fundraiser looked relieved. It was, murmured the head, not a full inspection, merely a survey with a focus. His reassuring tone fooled no one. He searched the sea of anxious faces, hesitating over each department as if to suggest, "English ... it could be you. Maths ... it isn't you. Learning support ... it's you."

The hall fell silent: you could have heard an IEP drop as 76 teachers simultaneously tried to recall exactly where, in their disastrous new two-week timetables, their lower band classes and support sets were clustered. And, more to the point, whether or not they had ever marked their books.

The full horror of the situation struck me with one chilling thought: Teachit worksheets. A term's worth of crucial fill-in-the-gap exercises were lying crumpled in pupils' bags; unloved, unmarked and unglued.

Back in our departments, we scanned our registers nervously. Pupils' names and identities were reduced to lists of well-intentioned acronyms: FSM, SA, EAL, ASD, SPLD, LAC. My planner became radiant with a rainbow of day-glo colours and elliptical codes squashed into its already bulging margins. Emails rained down on us like a pestilence, offering us lesson plan templates, whole-school attainment data and an ill-timed opportunity to purchase a colleague's Vauxhall Corsa.

The pillaging of the resources room began and continued on a scale unknown outside the Viking raids: swathes of A2 paper, coloured card and twinkly borders went. I ransacked the stock cupboard and guarded the remaining glue sticks, burying them in the Roses tin I had under my desk.

That afternoon I realised my planner lacked up-to-date information on kids in receipt of free school meals. I pondered the ethics of asking pupils to traffic light their socio-economic background as a plenary: "Colour the red light if Mum shops at Netto, amber for Morrisons and green for MS."

It was then that the ludicrousness of the situation dawned on me. I work in an excellent school, full of admirable teachers. Our kids do brilliantly, our pastoral care is second to none and our learning support department is Herculean in its effort. Yet with this shadow of Ofsted comes a real sense of the fragility of our success.

More than anything, I'm scared that I'll let my colleagues down. I'm worried that some tiny little vital thing could lose us the battle and cost us the war.

Returning home, I remember those worksheets. I set my alarm for 5.20am.

Beverley Brigg, Secondary English teacher, Gateshead.

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