Ofsted's silent witness

27th August 2004 at 01:00
James Kolasinski offers a pupil's-eye view of inspection

As I sit in the hall I can feel the tension. Things look the same, yet they aren't. The ticking of the school clock, usually so faint, now sounds ominous. The bell usually signals an outbreak of noise, but not this week: we must all behave, for there are false impressions to be made. We must all stand in line while we watch, listen and wait.

We have met the inspectors, talked and answered, for answers are all they want. They ask what we think, each question the same, waiting for us to make a mistake. I answer. Then they ask if I lie. What right do they have? I never lie. They don't like what I say and I am not questioned again.

Second bell. The lesson truly begins. We must be quiet, or we will be shouted down by these visitors who control the teachers this week. The teachers may look the same as ever, but this week we are taught by puppets, mannequins and dolls. All of a sudden the door slides open and, with a creak, a figure walks in. Like a dictator, he strolls to the back of the class carrying his briefcase, a file and some paper, his eyes hidden by intimidating glasses. His face is full of smiles. This innocence is his cover, he knows he controls us now.

The teacher gives a small "hello". A bead of sweat leaks on to his temple.

He carries on, he seems to get stronger, yet, alas, the visitor's pen scratches, screeches and judges.

They know not the pain they cause, they act like friends, though we all know they are not. We know there is more to education than this week; education is your own, it doesn't go to a strict plan. Can you measure how you have grown as a person? Education is thinking on your feet, it is your future. Should it really be put into statistics? What right does anyone have to say what you are getting from school? You are the only real inspector of your own education.

But the teachers know this is their only chance to make their impression of perfect teaching. They must change their lessons, their style and their gift. Why should they have to conform like this? We are the ones who learn with the teachers and see them every week; why should they have to change what is effective? Why should the class have to sit silently? I usually learn in lessons, today I do not.

The teacher tries to salvage what he thinks he has lost. If he'd taught in his usual style he would have done nothing wrong and we would learn. Isn't that what the inspectors want? We all know that he is the best, if he does badly or excels, he is building our future, and doing it well.

James Kolasinski is a Year 10 pupil at Highworth Warneford school, Swindon

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