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Under inspection

the dark side of becoming `outstanding'

the dark side of becoming `outstanding'

In the three years I worked at an outstanding school, I was lucky enough to escape the nerve-racking experience of an Ofsted inspection. I felt incredibly grateful, judging by the horror stories I heard from colleagues about the effect the inspection system had on their teaching.

However, I wasn't free from the feeling of being constantly scrutinised and doubted by management. Big Brother reigned, and at any moment a senior manager could walk into your class to demand a lesson plan that would justify what you were already doing but might not have had time to document yet.

It was awful, and on more than one occasion I was hauled into the headteacher's office, where my lesson plan was ripped to shreds for not being "outstanding". I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to plan and teach outstanding lessons if I were to remain in an outstanding school.

`Deliberately deflated' results

The tyranny of Ofsted and the fear of losing our "outstanding" badge of honour was like an albatross around our necks.

One drastic impact was to encourage a culture of cheating. At the start of the year, pupils' levels were deliberately deflated and they were encouraged not to work to their ability. Surprise tests were given on content that had not yet been covered so that pupils would get low grades.

Later on in the year, pupils would complete the same test two or three times, with the best result given to show the "huge" amount of progress everyone had made, and how well we were living up to the outstanding criteria and the prestige of the school.

Outstanding? Not so much

Cheating with coursework was also a big problem. Because of intense top-down pressure, departments would write and rewrite elements of pupils' coursework to ensure they were achieving the highest possible grades.

Not one member of my department is still teaching at the school, which has one of the highest turnovers of staff I have ever known. Numerous colleagues have been left distrustful of the education system and disbelieving of their own classroom abilities, questioning whether they should even stay in the profession.

Thankfully I escaped, but the innocent students are denied such refuge. So much for "outstanding".

The writer is a teacher at a state secondary school

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