I am getting ready for an inspection.
Okay, that just sounds wrong… the school where I work is due for an inspection and we have been informed that it is going to take place in a little over a week.
When teaching internationally, the regulations around formal school inspections are different to that of working in the UK, in that you get a different amount of advance warning to make your preparations. And I mean, a considerable amount of advance warning… I am talking at least six months if you work in many schools internationally! A little different to the minimum two days notice provided by Ofsted*. Shortly before the school finished for the summer break, management were very kind to drop the ‘I-bomb’ on us.
Of course, receiving this much notice for an inspection has its blessings, in that it gives you ample opportunity to get your stuff in order. But when it has come down to it, it’s actually rather difficult to plan lessons months or even weeks in advance. Even on a day-to-day basis things crop up: a ‘surprise’ school event may tear away half your students, you may end up having a fantastic debate that you don’t want to put on hold so the lesson has to roll over to the next day, or perhaps more realistically, you have so much to content to deliver that you end up either rushing or missing out chunks of information so you have to go back to it another time anyway.
Conversely, this much notice sent some of the management at my school into a spin and when the new school year started back in August the teaching faculty were swiftly issued with additional tasks to add to the already bulging workload. These additional tasks have so far included: gathering more data for our classes (as if we don’t provide enough), providing sample lesson plans and schemes of work together with resources to be scrutinised (I actually hate this word) and an ‘enhanced’ data review for each department/year group in the school – for some staff this took up to three to four drafts to complete, each edit taking at least a further hour or more. It’s significant to note here that in my two previous years at the school these reports came back with no feedback/complaints giving me the impression that, either no-one had read them previously or that management simply wants us to add copious amounts of information just for the inspection.
And the additional list of tasks goes on.
It’s been five years since I last experienced a school inspection, so you could argue now it’s my time. During my first, I managed to avoid nearly all detection from the inspection team with only brief contact made when one happened to pass through the library (where I was doing some work at the time) as they were on their way to the bathroom. My second experience couldn’t have been more different. I did receive one lesson observation and in truly stressed teacher fashion, instead of upping my game, I panicked, pretty much nearly forgetting what I was meant to be teaching and the kid’s names along with it. The feedback didn’t go as well as hoped.
At the moment I am feeling a little more prepared, but that could be the six months notice talking. There is still a lot more to do and I fear that next week will be filled with some more of those ‘additional’ tasks alongside my actual teaching.
*Ofsted: stands for the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills and they are the UK’s centre for school inspections.