During CPD training in school, the team was handed a bulging A4 booklet. So bulging, in fact, that the staples looked to be experiencing the same kind of tectonic stresses as the waistband of my work trousers during one of my ‘heavy’ phases.
I am sure that all teachers have a been handed such a booklet at some point. It was a collection of Powerpoint slides — printed on that setting that produces a set of lines next to a shrunken facsimile of each slide. The lines are generously provided for the lucky attendee of external CPD to write “Notes”. (Somewhere in that corner of a higher dimension known as Tree Heaven, one tree turns to another tree and says “Bastards! They cut us down for that?”)
Handing us a copy of the Powerpoint, of course, serves a double purpose: (a) the external-CPDer can tick the “info. shared with dept.” box on the yellow CPD Impact Assessment Form; and (b) it keeps the team occupied for twenty minutes as we digest the slides. The document itself was no worse than many I’ve seen, but, sadly, no better either: Ofsted…Ten things to remember…Ofsted..five strategies to…more Ofsted…six sodding hats…yet more Ofsted…bloody Bloom’s bloody taxonomy…[epithets mine].
But I digress. The potted biography of the trainer was included: she was headteacher there and there and is an experienced Ofsted inspector. Now I’m sure she is a nice lady who means well and gets on with her colleagues and family and doesn’t kick her cat and takes good care of the hamster, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this sort of thing is beyond a cottage industry now. Now it’s an industry — the school improvement industry.
It’s like we went to bed in the green, bucolic splendour of the 18th Century and woke up amidst the hideous, belching smokestacks of the Industrial Revolution.
And, for the life of me, I could not shake the feeling that some paragraphs written by George Orwell in the 1940s were particularily relevant:
The corruption that happens in England is seldom of that [conscious] kind. Nearly always it is more in the nature of self-deception, of the right hand not knowing what the left hand doeth. And being unconscious, it is limited . . . I do not suppose there is one paper in England that can be straightforwardly bribed with hard cash. In the France of the Third Republic all but a very few of the newspapers could notoriously be bought over the counter like so many pounds of cheese. Public life in England has never been openly scandalous. It has not reached the pitch of disintegration at which humbug can be dropped.
— George Orwell, England, Your England
I am sure that there is not a single Ofsted inspector in the country who can be bought across the counter for cold, hard cash like so many pounds of cheese. I even accept that a recent Ofsted rule change means that serving inspectors cannot run “what Ofsted want”-style courses anymore. (And about time too.)
But is it enough? Will there simply be a time-delayed revolving door between a stint as an inspector and joining the school improvement gravy train? I suspect that the niceties will continue to be observed, and that the fine old traditional British value of humbug will stop the development of situations that are openly scandalous.
As a colleague observed cynically: “The people writing this kind of thing are the exactly same kind of people who will be judging us, and can make or break our careers. Don’t do as they do, do as they say.”
I am and I will continue to do so. But, openly scandalous or not, I still think it stinks.