Once upon a time, in a regime far from reality

30th April 2010 at 01:00

Dracula rose from his slumber and hissed loudly in the direction of Red Riding Hood. Clearly he was out for blood. This left the young lady with no option but to defend her honour. Though a shopping basket to the abdomen is not a recognised vampire-slaying technique, it did take the wind out of his cloak.

With Dracula out for the count everyone should have lived happily ever after, but for reasons best known to himself, Spider-Man felt roused to act venomously in the winded vampire's defence. Fortunately, this particular Red Riding Hood was not easily intimidated. She sized him up and, ignoring what big fangs he had, gave him a swift kick to the spinnerets. Spider-Man sagged like an old web.

The sound of shock gave way to the sound of sides being taken. For a moment it looked like Buzz Lightyear, the Mad Hatter and two Harry Potters might join the fray. Intervention from a higher authority was needed.

"One means silence," I bellowed. "I do not want to hear a sound - human, animal or mythical. Two means eyes, antennae and light-sensing organs this way. Three means arms, tentacles and ... other appendages folded." Order is resumed. The only sound comes from two senior colleagues ominously scribbling comments on their observation forms.

In retrospect, dress-as-your-favourite-story-character day was not an ideal time for a practice lesson observation. But then a practice unannounced inspection must also be unnannounced, and we are doing our best to prepare for the harsher Ofsted framework.

How did this regime come about? If you listen quietly, children, I'll explain.

Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away from the real world of the primary classroom, a wise queen decided to implement changes to the school inspection regime. These would affect teachers in three ways.

"Firstly," said the wise queen, "there will be an increase in lesson observations - for it is a well-known fact that the more teachers are scrutinised the better they get at delivering unto the children an engaging learning experience."

"Secondly," said the wise queen, "in order to ensure fairness in the observation process, I will introduce paired observations. These will guarantee a high degree of quality control and effectively reduce the number of teacher errors that go unreported."

"And thirdly" - here she raised a finger - "I decree that from this day forth there will be unannounced interim monitoring inspections. The quality of provision must be consistent. The excitement caused by everyone dressed as a favourite story character cannot be an excuse for children not achieving expected learning outcomes."

I thought my post-observation interview went well. Mrs Tiggywinkle conferred briefly with Mary Poppins before turning her attention to me. "So, Steve, what do you think you could have done differently to ensure the children were more engaged with their learning?"

"Well," I replied, after careful consideration, "I suppose I could have come as Wackford Squeers."

Steve Eddison, Key stage 2 teacher, Sheffield.

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