Personally Speaking: Strokes, mass hysteria - it must be Ofsted day

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The Independent Online
EIGHT MONTHS ago, it was confirmed that I would be expecting my second in February - Ofsted, that is! It was a long and agonising labour. There were times when we could have lost it, but in the end it was delivered, a fine, bouncing school with just a few ailments to put right.

Surely it's time for this dehumanising practice to be put to rest? And let's not try to dress it up as some kind of necessary exercise that enhances the school. It is far from that. Ofsted is an instrument of torture that few of us deserve. If Mary Chipperfield had done to her animals what is done to teachers during Ofsted, there would be a public outcry.

In the end, we got through the ordeal and it was a testimony to the professionalism and dedication of my colleagues. I know these are the claptrap words widely used within the teaching profession, but on this occasion the accolades are well deserved. However, what was the cost? Well, how about two prolonged bouts of stress, a suspected thrombosis, a mini-stroke, numerous emotional outbursts, masses of hysteria and a brilliant headteacher undergoing pressures that would render a lesser mortal insane. That is the true cost of Ofsted.

Regardless of these real-life consequences, David Blunkett persists with this cruel and meaningless pursuit. The controversial Chris Woodhead still holds on to his Position of Derision and a band of inspectors still shamelessly take the Queen's shilling in order to "dump" on their own profession.

The team that visited my school recently was particularly poor: seven sad and forgettable examples of humanity who made a series of bad judgements, gave inaccurate and even dangerous advice and looked about as confident as I would be piloting Concorde. How do people like this slip into the system and heap their unwarranted criticism on a school that parents, children and governors rate most highly?

In the end, we became so contemptuous of the team that nobody could even raise a smile in their direction.

Everything they said was vociferously and accurately challenged, and I'm certain they left the premises knowing full well that their incompetence had been rumbled. Yet the utmost stress and pressure had preceded this four-day farce. Many of my colleagues suffered stress and some developed potentially life-threatening conditions in preparation for Ofsted. This must not continue - for health and safety reasons.

It really is about time the teaching profession stood up and said as much to Ofsted. Perhaps, with union backing, we could all disrupt the inspections and the situations that are designed to fail us. What would be wrong in employing peaceful resistance to Ofsted? I don't think that a 3.5 per cent increase is enough to sell our soul to the Labour Party. If we just sit back and allow Woodhead and his "educational also-rans" to continue to ride this convenient gravy train, then the profession deserves what it gets.

Let's start by insisting that all members of staff receive full medicals before thinking of embarking on Ofsted week, and all those seen as unfit should be sent home. This would ensure that half the classrooms were without a teacher.

After all, if this kind of preventive care is offered to racehorses, greyhounds and zoo animals, why can't it be offered to the teaching profession?

The most disappointing thing about Labour is that they are more guilty than the Tories of treating education as a commodity, rather than a service. Grades, levels, league tables, benchmarks are all in place now to dehumanise education.

What was so lovely about teaching was shaping the individual, not grouping pupils into highly suspicious attainment boxes. The flagship of this stupidity is Ofsted. It's time teachers stood up and aimed a fatal blow across its bows.

The writer has been a primary school teacher for 25 years