What keeps me awake at night - No trust, only constant scrutiny

19th October 2012 at 01:00

The clipboard in the corner is devoid of expression. Entering midway through a lesson without greeting, it sits in silent scrutiny, taking notes, looking in books, studying pupils. After 10 minutes, and without a word to anyone, it departs.

It is the kind of thing every teacher expects from the dreaded Ofsted visit, but this is just a standard Monday morning. The new observation guidelines that swung into action in September have freed school managers to spend as much time as they like watching their staff, and in our school they've seized the opportunity with both hands.

Visits are frequent, randomly spaced and always unsmiling. Book samples are taken for scrutiny (often when you need them for the lesson), displays are monitored, planning pored over and timetables checked. Feedback is rare and hardly ever comes directly, but is passed down through middle managers. The over-riding message is: "We don't trust you."

And while we are scrutinised like laboratory rats, who is watching the watchers? Who is monitoring staff meetings to check that teachers are receiving guidance and constructive criticism in a supportive and encouraging environment?

Most teachers are more than happy to have a headteacher wander in and look at children's work and will gladly act on advice given. The flaw in the system is that, in the hands of the wrong head, this is just more power to ride roughshod over their staff. We know when the clipboard enters the room it's never looking for something to praise. At least Ofsted told us what we were doing right (which, incidentally, was quite a lot).

But apart from changing schools or retraining as a plumber there seems little we can do about it. After all, who's going to go out of their way to antagonise the person who not only writes their reference and increasingly controls their pay, but now also holds a clipboard full of their shortcomings?

The writer is a primary teacher from the Midlands. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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