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What keeps me awake at night - My 'outstanding' issues with Ofsted

Hopeful Head of Department is clutching the "Department Development Plan" folder and looking decidedly anxious. My powers of deduction tell me the announcement of an inspection is imminent. Teacher with Outstanding Feature is already dusting down her "Gimmicks and Gadgets for Outstanding Lessons" box.

Then it's the start of Ofsted week. I arrive at school feeling zombified by lesson planning sheets. We all pile into the staffroom to meet and greet the Ofsted team. Lead Inspector reminds us that there is nothing to be stressed about and we should all just carry on as normal.

I make my way to the teaching lab. Just my luck. Lead Inspector is already there, perched on a stool, clipboard at the ready and wearing the Ofsted smile. He will need to tick dozens of boxes for an "outstanding" grade. I have decided to stick with my tried-and-tested recipes for pupil success. I only manage 10 ticks.

Well, news travels fast. I am sitting in High-Powered Head's office for my "staff intervention interview". The head lists some of my downfalls: my objectives weren't properly tiered; I didn't do Assessment for Learning checks every five minutes; two pupils broke the "no hands up" rule; not all pupils were able to quote their target grades. It goes on.

In my defence, I tell him that pupils like my style of teaching; they learn, they make progress, they achieve good or outstanding results and they often thank me for teaching them. "Yes, but does it tick the box?" he asks. "It ticks my box," I reply. He is not amused.

It's official: the school has achieved "outstanding" status. Hooray. Apparently, among other things, the Ofsted team was very impressed with the school's effective "staff intervention interviews". Hmmm ... I congratulate myself on being part of our success.

As the trauma of the inspection begins to fade, I think more about my teaching. I know that I'm good at my job. But in my efforts to plan and deliver "outstanding" lessons I seem to lose my natural flair and flexibility as I try to cover all the criteria for that outstanding grade.

It annoys me that some not-so-good teachers go out of their way to put on that one-off showpiece for an observed lesson and then sit back and consider themselves to be outstanding practitioners in their field.

Worrying too much about how I'm perceived by inspectors or my headteacher can easily keep me awake at night. So I have made a resolution to help me sleep better: I will continue to produce good and outstanding results and be considered a very good teacher by my colleagues and pupils, instead of getting hung up on the box-ticking by which my "superiors" judge success.

The writer is a science teacher from Warwickshire. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email

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