Why Ofsted's latest visit is a fat lot of good

4th July 2008 at 01:00
You wanted to see me, headmaster?
You wanted to see me, headmaster?

Ah, come in Mrs Smith. Thank you for bringing Tommy. I wanted to mention that we're sending him to the school allotment on Tuesday.

That's fine. His class goes there for an hour sometimes.

I know. But we're sending him there for three days. With some children who are ... umm ... similar to Tommy.

Sorry headmaster, I don't understand.

Could you both sit down in my comfy chairs. Now, Mrs Smith, watch closely as Tommy sits ... What did you notice?

He travelled a long way down.

He did. That's because he's a very large lad. He's what we call obese. And that's a shame, because our teachers spend lots of time talking about healthy eating.

Oh, he knows about that. Ask him anything about food and he knows what he should eat. He just prefers KFC and chips.

Well, everything's fine in moderation. But he needs to balance his eating with fruit and veg as well. And exercise, of course.

I know. I've told him. But you can't tell kids anything these days, can you?

The trouble is, Mrs Smith, there's a knock-on problem for the school. We have quite a few children like Tommy who are overweight, and now Ofsted has got involved. You've heard of Ofsted, haven't you?

They come into schools and frighten teachers, don't they?

That's right - and they're visting on Tuesday. They'll be checking up on over-weight children and blaming us if we've got too many. Our inspection report could suffer as a result. If we become a failing school, my mortgage could be on the line.

But I thought inspectors came to see if children are making progress in lessons?

Ah, that's what used to happen, when the Government had oodles of money for five-day inspections. Things are leaner now.

But hasn't the Government said standards in schools are rising?

It has, and they are. But if standards keep rising, there won't be much need for a mighty organisation like Ofsted.

And inspectors would have to be laid off?

Exactly. Thousands of 'em. They might even ... have to return to the classroom. After all, the world of education is littered with dubious and expensive consultants, so they won't find much work in that direction.

So they've decided to inspect overweight children like my Tommy, as well as educational standards?

Correct, Mrs Smith. The more things they can inspect, the easier it is to persuade the Government not to disband them.

So it's the school's fault if pupils are fat?

Yes. And bored. You see, they're also blaming us if pupils are bored in class. Which brings me to the next point. Tommy's teacher spends hours making her lessons creative and exciting, but Tommy keeps falling asleep.

It's because he's on his PlayStation till late. I tell him to turn it off, but as soon as I go out of the room he turns it back on again.

Can't you take the thing out of his bedroom?

He'd never forgive me - it wouldn't be worth the aggro.

And that's why we're sending him to the allotment, Mrs Smith. Killing several birds with one stone. Tommy can do some energetic digging and vegetable growing.

He won't like that, headmaster. He's not keen on exercise.

No, but at least he'll be out of the way until Ofsted's moved on.


Mike Kent, Headteacher of Comber Grove Primary School, Camberwell, South London.

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