Okay, now then, first of all, let me introduce you to B and E. We’re having lunch in a cafe in Westfields, the huge shopping centre in Shepherds Bush. They are both on BLTs and coffee while I am re-arranging the currants on my sticky bun to resemble a ‘Happy Face’. Retired now, B and E have spent the bulk of their working lives in the teaching game. Not only that, but specifically with some of its most difficult and challenging individuals. They did this (and moreover did it extremely well) by being well-organised, stimulating their charges’ interest by approaching topics or subjects from a point of view which allowed them the opportunity to engage, and by treating their students with respect. However, I don’t want any mental images of ‘bearded (both of them) yoghurt-knitting, wet, woolly-thinking liberals’. Far from it. Snappy-dressing Rock ‘n’ Rollers, they approached the classroom with principles and attitude and certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly. I’m making them out to be a bit of a double act, but of course they weren’t. Apart from a brief spell when they taught in the same school, they did not work together.
The first story is from E and is a cautionary tale for all those with a calling to work in the schools’ inspectorate (still known, as far as I am aware as OFSTED) and comes from the time she worked at Chantry, a special school for ‘maladjusted’ children as it was known then. She had a particularly difficult group. Almost impossible to get settled and concentrating on anything. That was until she introduced them to a bit of sewing or perhaps more correctly, needlework.
For miracle of miracles; when she got out the sewing kit and once they had got bored with trying to jab each other, they simmered down and got into some basic techniques. It must have had some kind of therapeutic effect.
Well, it was into one of these lessons one jolly morning that a school inspector purposefully strode and took up her position to observe the lesson. Apart from making ‘V’ signs behind her back, raising their eyebrows a lot and huffing, coughing, sneezing and ‘hiding’ swear words in them as they did so (Bbbbhhhbitch! Aahhaahhaahhaarsehole!!) the kids completely ignored the visitor. Meanwhile, E explained to the students what they had to do, and they got started.
A relative calm descended. E went around, helping out. As she did so Mrs. Inspector takes it upon herself to poke around and give the students the benefit of her expertise. She stood and looked for a long time over the shoulder of one of the boys, which had the visitor even the slightest scrap of awareness of body language and the intimate classroom dynamics of such a teaching situation is the boy she would have made a point of steering well clear of.
“Oh no no no!” said the inspector. Silence. The students looked from one to another, open-mouthed.
“Oh no no no! That won’t do. That bit there. It isn’t straight ..” You could hear a pin drop.
Without looking up the boy replied: “Yeah? Well you’ve got a fucking big nose, but I wasn’t gonna say nothing”
And so you have it. The fundamental flaw in the process of inspecting and reporting on schools, their teachers and the students in their care. Employing inspectors with Fucking Big Noses.
And for those of you who haven’t worked it out yet, ‘B’ is ‘Bill’ as in My Mate Bill, and E his wife Eileen.
CSE: Secondary Certificate of education
TVEI: Technical/Vocational Initiative
NVQ: National Vocational Qualification
GCSE: General Certificate of Secondary Education
BLT: Bacon lettuce and Tomato Sandwich
© Andy Daly 2010