A fire was started in a small courtyard at a Dorset comprehensive last Friday. Not by the discarded fag end of a careless pupil. Nor that volatile combination of magnifying glass and sun that has thrilled generations of children. But deliberately, by a group of disaffected teachers.
One by than the teachers at Poole high school tossed their unopened assessments into a brazier and watched them turn to ash. The envelopes had been kept in a strong box until the private ceremony.
Teachers were protesting at the grading system used by the Office for Standards in Education after their recent inspection. "We feel the grading of teachers by numbers is not a particularly helpful thing to do, and is more likely to create divisions within our staffroom." said head of drama Steve Evans, who organised the event.
Their complaint was purely against the statistical validity of the grades. They found the inspection process itself helpful. "The verbal feedback was quite constructive and the inspectors themselves were a rather human bunch", said Mr Evans.
"The inspectors understood our concerns but said they had to play it by the book," said school coordinator Michael Beasley. "They came up with the idea that they would not tell staff what their grade was, and would send it to us in a sealed envelope."
The exercise was cathartic for staff exhausted by preparing for the inspection. "Out of the 90 staff we've had about 55 sign up to this," said Mr Evans.
"The amount of extra work we had to put in took everyone by surprise, and a lot of it was unnecessary. People said a lot of the pressure of the build-up went off when they signed up."
He said John Short, the head, was very supportive of the event and would not open his envelope with all the grades in it unless legally obliged to.
However, when asked for his view of what the teachers had done, Mr Short said: "That is their affair. It's nothing to do with this office."
OFSTED was also unwilling to comment. News 3