Re-inspected to destruction;Last Page;Opinion

17th September 1999 at 01:00
HAVE YOU heard of the process known as "testing to destruction"? It is used on materials and constructions to discover their breaking point. You keep piling on the weights, shearing forces or whatever, until something disintegrates. Then you know where to strengthen it, or what limits to put on its usage.

I used to think this was purely an industrial process, until I realised that it applied to education as well.

Teacher training in universities is currently being inspected to death. There are primary sweeps and secondary sweeps and then, sometimes within months, re-inspections.

Did I say "re-inspections"? Sorry, I meant "further inspections". When inspectors come back a year later to do a place over yet again, even if it got top grades, they are not "re-inspecting". Oh no. Wash your mouth out with soap and water for even using the word. In order to avoid any suggestion that OFSTED might not know its fundamental orifice from its elbow, we are told it is a "further inspection".

In my one-man attempt on the British all-comers' records for these things, I was inspected by 10 different inspectors in slightly over a year. My son, training to be a teacher, was inspected at the same time by a trainee inspector.

As he carried out his lesson, the teacher watching him was being observed by a trainee inspector, who was in turn being observed by an old-hand inspector. They needed the sort of finishing structure overhead that judges used to have at the end of sprint races. He said he felt like the smallest bit of plankton at the end of the food chain.

Now, a mere 15 months later, clearly experiencing withdrawal symptoms, inspectors are coming back again. My son's course is over, so any OFSTED specials, such as family discounts or half-price for kids, are just too late.

I've tried. Goodness knows, I've tried. I've sent photos and videos of me and the kids to OFSTED, but there are still inspectors in classy detoxification clinics at this very moment, suffering cold turkey because they haven't seen me or my family for days.

The cost of these repeated pilgrimages back to the dark caverns in which I and fellow teacher trainers practise our devilish arts must be millions. During the summer OFSTED was given responsibility for inspecting pre-schools and further education, so the whole of human life is now inspected by the same dreary outfit.

This Brian Rix farce, with its incessant opening and closing doors, is only rescued because many of the inspectors are intelligent people who refuse to turn into Daleks and do their best to humanise a mechanical process.

My mother, at the age of 88, is about to go into an old people's home. As she sits there, quietly knitting slippers with big needles, I fully expect some cheerful Charlie, with a briefcase marked OFSTED, to roll up and inspect the oldest member of the family to see if she is "generally sound", at or above the national average.

However, there is one element of the human cycle that seems to have escaped the clutches of OFSTED. So far as I know they have not yet been given the responsibility for inspecting morgues and cemeteries. This seems a regrettable omission in their ever-expanding brief, which I hope will soon be rectified.

Imagine the scene. Ivor Clipboard, Dip. Insp. (El Dorado hotel, Clacton, 1996), arrives at the local slabhouse clutching his 397-page Morgue Inspection Framework. Let the bureaucracy commence.

"How many of the clients are dead?"

"The lot. In terms of mortality, every single stiff is exceedingly deceased."

"Pulse rates?"

"Uniformly zero."

"What is the nature of the coffins?"

"All caskets fit exactly."

"I'll be back again tomorrow to see if they are still dead."

Inspecting morgues would be the ultimate OFSTED dream. No problems about people being above or below the national average, all would manifest the same degree of deadness. No action plans or special measures would be necessary because corpses are incapable of any action. Everyone would come out "at the national average", the ultimate state of uniform conformity. Also, no one would answer back. It's something to look forward to, anyway.

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