Thank God it's summer

18th August 2000 at 01:00
Continuing our peek at a London teacher's diary of last term

Monday News of the imminent Ofsted inspection is in the air. The staff are apprehensive. Details of the inspection team have been pinned on the noticeboard.

A few older staff express concern. As previously rumoured, the team contains a former member of the staff who was dismissed eight years ago on competency grounds.

As anyone in schools knows, it takes teaching of awesomely bad proportions to merit dismissal. The head registers an objection and the offending individual is removed. The chairman of governors writes to both Ofsted and the DfEE to ask how this situation could have arisen. Both august organisations refuse to comment and merely claim faith in their robust selection procedures.

Tuesday A colleague recounts a depressing story over morning coffee. He has taken a group of sixth-formers to a conference at the Institute of Education on Citizenship in the 21st Century.

The place is full of thousands of sixth-formers. They wait for a lift. The doors open to reveal it packed with pupils of a well-known London independent day school, all kitted out in their blazers and ties. They gaze at our pupils, imperious and disdainful, as if they are a different species. as the doors close and the lift disappears up the shaft, a Home Counties voice pierces the silence, "comprehensive school scum".

The irony of their attending a conference on citizenship is not lost on me.

Wednesday The gravy train has arrived. The conjunction of an imminent Ofsted inspection and threshold application has got the educational consultants in a lather.

This new breed of shysters and scrimshankers who infest the world of education now targets the school in search of easy pickings. We are offered pre-inspection inspections, team-building exercises and a flat fee of pound;200 to fill in a threshold applcation.

With the decline of the local authority as a credible provider this infestation has now reached a peak, stimulated by a government that is obsessed with the idea that there is some quick fix to education.

Thursday A verbatim report of a conversation at a parents' consultation evening held today.

Parent: Are you a superteacher?

Me: No, I'm not, but I believe I am moderately competent.

Parent: Why aren't you a superteacher? I've read about them in the papers.

Me: I don't think there are many superteachers.

Parent: Why not? I want my daughter to be taught by a superteacher. I don't want any ordinary teachers, not if she can have a superteacher.

Me: I think that we are all ordinary teachers in this school.

Parent: That's the impression that I got. Is your headmaster a super head?

Me: No. Of that I am sure.

Parent: Why not?

Me: Because he is who he is.

Friday The head has been to the Palace to receive his OBE that has been put on display in the staff- room, alongside a small, green leather comments book. I return later but it has disappeared before I have had the chance to write "an honour richly deserved". His secretary informs me that the behaviour of some of the more immature members of staff has forced the removal of the book.

I am standing in the foyer of the school attending to a cabinet full of trophies. A parent comes in looking rather apprehensive. "Are you the headmaster?" he asks. "Not in so many words," I reply in my best jovial fashion. "I heard that, Mr Brown." It is the head. I hadn't realised that he had come out of the office. I bite my lip. I keep forgetting that, if David Blunkett does get a performance-related pay scheme through, the head could be deciding soon whether I get the pound;2,000 bonus.

Bless them.

The author teaches in a north London comprehensive

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