'A boy falls asleep in my class. Deep down I despair'

A dedicated teacher killed herself after becoming depressed by criticism of her performance during an Ofsted inspection. Just how stressful are school inspections? Teachers in two very different schools open up their diaries

Founded for farmers' sons in 1865, Cranleigh School is now a 500-pupil co-educational independent boarding school in Surrey. It's an imposing building, set high on its own hill, and few visitors forget their first sight of it. The author is an English teacher at the school.

Sunday

7.15pm: All 65 teachers gather to meet the inspectors for an ice-breaking buffet. There are 15 of them - all head teachers, former heads and senior staff from independent schools. The team is an Ofsted-accredited one from HMC - the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, the professional body for leading independent schools. Everyone is in best suits and on best behaviour. We started our preparations for this inspection months ago and staff stress has been rising since. Tonight there's a perceptible easing of tension.

Monday

10.15am: forty-five sixth-formers gather in a large classroom to hear this week's English lecture. The english department inspector is Jeremy Nichols, distinguished head of Stowe. What will he make of the lecture system, which is a special feature of A-level teaching? Most students seem more attentive than ever, with a visiting headteacher in the back-row. One benefit of inspection is immediately underlined, proving that improvements obvious to an outsider can be easily overlooked from within. The system itself is given credit as an example of team teaching - but why, asks our illustrious inspector, has no time been left for questions?

With perverse timing, the fire alarm sounds right in the middle of break. Teachers and inspectors alike spill out on to the quad in front of the staff room, as students hasten to assembly points. Ten minutes later all are accounted for.

The cause of the fire alarm going off is burnt toast; but the emergency system has worked, and it's been a chance to see the school's back-up fire-brigade in action.

Inevitably, the next period runs late, with students loud and lively after such unscheduled excitement. With 360 boarders, pastoral care is a prime inspection concern. In the evening, a full programme of visits to girls' and boys' boarding-houses begins.

Cubitt House, recently extended to provide top-grade study facilities, is home to 60 boys. Inside there is the unmistakable "buzz" common to boarding-houses: the sense of energy and excitement when young people gather together.

Tiwadola Cardoso, 16, and Tony Hart, 15, both about to take GCSEs, share a study. It's new, comfortable, houses a computer, has desk space, beds, plus many CDs and posters. Neither Tiwa nor Tony are saints - but both praise the friendliness of their house and the benefits boarding can bring. "Boarding encourages you to mix - it almost forces you to get on," says Tiwa. On my way out, I pass on their positive attitude to housemaster, Andrew Griffiths. He hopes the inspector will notice.

Tuesday

There's an unusual sight at the start of the school day: 20 students struggling with blue supermarket-style boxes, full of their files, on their way to meet the inspectors. They're the sample chosen to discuss a full year's written work with the team. Although they are not being inspected, one or two are nervous.

Jeremy Nichols sits in on Year 9 drama: a practical workshop in the Nineties-built Vivian Cox Theatre, supervised by director of drama, Mandy McIlwaine, or "Miss Mac", as she is known.

Few staff dare to cross swords with Mandy, let alone students, so all goes well. "We forgot he was there after a while," said one girl.

Cranleigh went co-educational last year, so a key concern is how well girls are integrated. Sarah Greenwood, the maths teacher and deputy house mistress, is on duty, awaiting the inspector. South, the main girls' boarding-house, has been converted from the Connaught Block - a classic twenties building. Ever since girls started, rumours have abounded of the unbridled luxury of its accommodation.

Sarah believes co-education has been a big success: "There's so much on offer for girls here." Anna Lewis and Ashleigh Howes, both 13 and in their first year, report few problems with integration.

Both students came to Cranleigh for a change from all-girls schools, and are enjoying learning to live with boys. "It's like a college more than a school. We all get on well," says Anna. Though each deny the persistent rumours of en suite saunas.

In the evening, there is an opportunity for parents to express their opinions to the inspection team. No teachers present.

Wednesday

By now we are used to seeing the team around the school. This week is a busy one - with GCSE course work and A-level mocks to be set and marked. No time to relax. Disaster strikes in my last inspected lesson. It's a warm day, the end of a double period, lunch is beckoning; so, with 10 minutes to go, despite best efforts to keep him interested, one of the lads gives up the struggle and falls asleep. Horrified that Hardy should have this effect in front of an inspector, I try to make a joke of it. Deep down, I despair.

Thursday

The inspection's over. There's a sigh of relief in the staff-room: a feeling of something accomplished. But there's more than a hint of anti-climax, too. It sounds strange, but this inspection has given us teachers a sense of unity, purpose and common cause. Now it's back to humdrum reality. All we have to worry about is the verdict.

And the inspector's verdict was: Glowing. The school was described as a good, caring community with high academic standards

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Network Manager - Oldham area - Up to £30,000

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

Teacher of special needs required for Burton on Trent

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Exciting Opportunity, Rand...

Behaviour Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Behaviour Support Worker Th...

Youth Worker / Teaching Assistant - Nottingham

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are looki...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment