On Monday Pompous called in to my class at lunchtime. My heart sank. I had an ICT lesson to set up (my kids were supposed to be writing a newspaper using Microsoft Word, a challenge when they can't even write their name using an HB pencil). I was tinkering with a template I had set up. I figured I could have half an hour getting the template ready and 20 minutes in the staffroom with some oatcakes, cheese and a cup of strong tea. Of course, the appearance of Pompous meant that all bets were off.
'I've got bad news Miss Underscore. I've just checked the new Ofsted guidelines and it seems that for a teacher to be rated just 'satisfactory' 80% of their class needs to make 2 sub-levels of progress per year. Also, it seems that in future a teacher's pay will be related to this target. Obviously this has implications for you with your class of thickos.
Yes, he did indeed use the word 'thickos'. I shan't bother to explain about sub-levels, needless to say that in 4 years of formal education my class had barely even made one sub-level progress.
'I'm hoping I can get round it by assessing all the special needs children and developing an 'intervention plan' for each and every one of them. That way, we can show Ofsted that we are planning on moving these kids forward and are catering to their needs. '
Now, 18 of my 24 children already have a personalised education plan. I have to write and review these every term and meet with parents to discuss progress. This alone equates to 8 sheets of paperwork for every child. Multiply that by 18 and you will see that is a huge amount of extra work. Pompous seemed to advocating yet another system based around endless form-filling.
'What form exactly will the 'intervention' take? Will I get some extra support in the classroom?' I asked.
It is all very well throwing paperwork at a problem, but surely you have to commit extra resources (extra classroom assistants, smaller classes) to really tackle the problem. My classroom assistant and I are working tirelessly as it is, we never stop.
'Ah well. Don't be daft. No money in the budget for that, Miss Underscore. How about you make a start writing a risk assessment for every child you have who will struggle to make sufficient progress for Ofsted. Here, I've already drawn up some forms you can use and specified the data you need to collect.'
He handed me a pile of A4 sheets, the height of Blackpool Tower.
'Doesn't this mean we are writing intervention plans, but not actually doing any real intervention?' I asked.
He didn't like that. He was turning beetroot red and started sweating like a Hippo at a disco.
'It just means, Miss Underscore, that you'll have to be extra creative!' he retorted smugly.
That made me want to garrote the crimson faced clod. To quote Woody Allen, what I wouldn't have given for a 'large sock of horse manure'. I am fucking creative! There are teachers in my school who simply photocopy worksheets for every lesson. I never, ever do that.
You know. I hate the bureaucracy of teaching. I think Ofsted will want to see practical action taken, not just a filing cabinet crammed with paper. But, given these new guidelines, why would any teacher choose to work in a challenging school, with challenging children? It seems like they are encouraging teachers to head to the leafy suburbs, where life and pay-increments will be easier. I don't want to sound like a sandal-wearing, chick-pea-bothering liberal, but I don't want to work in the suburbs. I want work in an area where I can make a real difference.
So, my life seems to be 90% work, 10% chores and dog walking. I have no fun at the moment. None.
Footnote: I shall sum-up with a tale that illustrates the bleakness of where I work. I have mentioned Forrest (the boy with a cat called 'Spliff'). I have begun to notice that he sits and 'smokes' his pencil through every lesson. This is the only action that Forrest's pencil actually ever sees, of course! Anyway. Forrest is constantly off school, he has missed 10 out of 20 days so far. Last week my teaching assistant saw Forrest playing out with his older brother after school. This was when he was supposed to be off, poorly.
'Ere, Missus, de ye wanna knaw why our Forrest was off school today?' the older brother bellowed.
'It's because he's been sucking cocks all day'.
Forrest (who is 7) found this hysterical.
Rochester used to have a line he would use when I spoke of The School of Hard Knocks.
'Christ!' he would mutter incredulously, 'Bleasdale couldn't script it!'