Thank God it's Friday

12th December 1997 at 00:00
Monday: Up at 6am again. I haven't been sleeping much lately, but it'll all be over soon. The 12 hours of detailed planning at the weekend have given me a much-needed boost and I'm sure, like the rest of my dedicated colleagues, by Friday all the effort will have been worthwhile. Since the last HMI visit in May, everyone has given so much time, shared so many good practices.

I'm only in my second year of teaching, but my learning curve has been steep - not just because of this visit, but because of the tough, inner-city environment I work in. Thank goodness for the commitment and comradeship of the staff.

I don one of the two new suits I bought at half-term - I can't remember the last time I went shopping - so the students don't embarrass me by pointing out how smart I look when the inspectors arrive tomorrow. I promise to try to relax more in class and to continue smilingI Tuesday: The staff briefing is brief. The head tries to crack a joke and we all try to laugh. I look at him closely. Is his suit too big? Or has he shrunk with the weight of responsibility? The inspectors aren't here yet, but there's a look of dread on everyone's face.

Most of the staff have been through this before. I wasn't here when the school was OFSTED-ed last time and neither were my two other colleagues in the maths department. But, judging by the look on their faces, the fear must be spreading. The head of department catches us on the way to our rooms and points out we're a good team. Don't some people have the knack of saying the right thing at the right time?

I smile at my tutor group and glance towards the car park. Three posh cars have arrived. The men in black are here. Armed and dangerous.

I'll have to get that classroom door fixed. Every time there's a gust of wind - or a pupil walks by - the door shakes and I get the jitters. No inspector yet. Quick exchanges and looks at break and lunch indicate all is well. The class list in the staffroom shows the inspectors have been busy. But as I drive home I know there's another sleepless night ahead - my fate will be determined tomorrow.

Wednesday: They are already here. It's only just 8am, but the men in black must have slept over. Briefing is even briefer and the staff move into overdrive. One more day and it's over. Period one and two slip agonisingly by. Break. A quick coffee in the inspector-free zone that once was known as the staffroom, and then its period three - bright Year 9 class. Final lesson plan gleaned from one of the country's top universities.

Please come in now. He does. Arrives five minutes into the lesson, no chair - the classroom is full - so he huddles on the window frame in the corner. Tries to be natural - I am not. I think the lesson has pace - or is that just me hurtling around the room? I try to be challenging, and all the time I can't help glancing at this unknown quantity, this wolf in sheep's clothing. He picks up a book. He speaks to one pupil. He moves and speaks to another.

Twenty-five minutes later he is thanking me at the door, and then he is gone. And I am beginning to crack.

Thursday: They've gone. The head is pleased. Everyone is happy. It went well. The head puts on a wonderful staff lunch. The staffroom is buzzing again. There are smiles, there are jokes. but no one is convinced. Not until the phone call arrives. The one that is promised.

Friday: We'll know today. The head announces that a meeting will be held at lunch, if he receives the call this morning. Or after school, if they phone this afternoon. Period three, a messenger arrives. Meeting is at 12.05pm.

The looks on the faces of the management team give it away. But the head, with dignity, calmly announces that the school is to be put into special measures. And with that, all the work, the effort, the time, the commitment, the blood, the sweat and the tears given for this tough, inner-city school, pale into insignificance. We are failures. We, who have lived it, know different. We may need help in some areas but we are not failures. We have been failed.

The writer teaches maths in the Midlands

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