WHAT? Eight o'clock on a Monday morning and no parking space? I manoeuvred gingerly on to the grass verge and removed briefcase, box, crates, pictures, models and all kinds of rubbish that my boot had never housed before.
IT'S OFSTED! The date that had seemed so distant on the summer beaches of Cyprus had arrived and so had they. A white Montego estate with "I've rambled through Radnorshire" on its rear window was now in my space. I tutted at the minor disruption. You see, I'd become a "Teacher of Habit", and I cursed the change to my routine.
I kicked the door and entered the school like an unbalanced mule, whereupon I encountered the first one. A tall ageless man in an ageless suit was poking what is euphemistically called "the fabric of the school" with a ball-point pen.
"Morning," he grunted.
I felt uncomfortably subservient and clumsy in his company. Surely he realised that I didn't normally arrive at school so ladened. I nodded and hurried on.
As I passed the library, I glimpsed briefly through the window and spied the rest. A school of Ofsted inspectors, (or whatever the collective noun is) were scribbling beaverishly inside. They appeared not to notice me until I dropped my lesson notes in my haste to remain inconspicuous. Their eyes looked up and focused on the clumsiness. My face coloured, my stomach tightened. Roll on Friday.
In the days that followed, they appeared unto me a dozen times. Totally expressionless for the most part and devoid of any ice-breaking communication. Yet strangely, they did become a part of the school very quickly. In response, our stress and anxiety levels fell, but never our guard.
Eventually, the last lesson had been assessed, the last playground duty observed, the last book checked and the last dinner duty experienced. As the Ofsted entourage left school for the final time, the first cork was removed from our hidden supply of chardonnay. Grown women (and possibly men) wept in their mini-quiches. Party poppers were distributed and hysterical, almost banal humour reigned supreme at the post-Ofsted gathering. It was over. Twelve months of preparation and uncertainty was behind us and I looked forward to a weekend free of What-ifs?
The writer teaches at Chapel Fields Junior School in Solihull. He has been a teacher for 20 years.
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