Monday, 6 April 2015

An FE Inspector (of dubious competence) Calls: Part 1

I am part way through my first year in FE teaching mostly A-Level English courses, with a soupcon of GCSE English Language classes (1 evening class, and 1 class of re-sitters) and as the year has gone on, the 'OFSTED ARE COMING!!!!' heebeejeebees increased. Turns out, they were right, as on the second week of our 5 week half term, on the afternoon of Thursday the 5th March 2015, we had 'the call' telling us they would be in all of the following week, beginning Monday 9th March 2015. 

I want to explicitly state that I do love my place of work - I work with great staff and students and do not want, through writing this blog - to damn anyone in my place of work. This is the first time I can say I've really and truly enjoyed teaching and working in an educational institution. Turns out, you don't have to feel stressed everyday when you turn up to work. Go figure. 

My fellow secondary school teachers will notice the, ahem notice, being greater than the secondary school standard procedure of a mere 12 hours.  I believe the greater notice period is because FE institutions are generally quite large, often encompassing several sights (ours has six, all over Warwickshire with the 'Mother-ship' being in Leamington Spa) ergo the need for a slightly longer run-up time, to me, seems quite justified. 

By Friday morning the Principal of the college has prepared a video that we were to show to all our students and the numerous other leaders within the college began the 'deluge of emails' approach to Ofsted preparation - again, more due to the large number of sites, rather than an inability to communicate another way. However, 'deluge' remains the right word - the deluge was to the extent that, as the days wore on, I just didn't look at my work emails, and relied on office chatter to work out what I really need to look at, and what I can sensibly ignore. If I had spent all my time reading all the emails that were sent; I would not have had the time to do all the things I actually needed to do. 

Prior to the Ofsted call we were given lists of preparation admin to do - running to at least 20 items - again I had to really work out what was utterly necessary to teach my classes, and safely ignore the rest. What did irk was the need to write out lessons on a pro-forma when the most recent FE Ofsted myth-busting document explicitly states that, 'Ofsted does not expect lecturers to plan in a different way than they do normally' (that is a paraphrased version of what is in the actual document) - but  being a 'newbie' at my place I did not feel brave enough to day 'No' so I duly complied, but dear God did I hate filling out the colleges own '10 minute - but at a  minimum it really takes 40 minutes - lesson plan' to the extent that on the first Monday after inspection week, I felt visibly lighter from not having to fill the darn things out. 

Also on the Friday we knew which specific  areas the college would be inspected for - from memory, they were: Business, Equine, English and Maths (Level 1 and 2 courses) ...I forget the other three areas, but 'A-Levels' was not a target area. Here the A-Level staff  were just amazing - knowing pretty much definitely get seen with a GCSE class - I had so much support and offers of help - I had not a clue what to do with it all:

Geography A gave me a talking to, 'Your are NOT to get all stressed and worried.' in her loving but also a little bit scary Northern way

  • Personal Learning Advisor C - asked if she could cover some of my classes so I could get ready for the Inspection

  • Mentor and desk buddy T - TOLD me not to come into work over the weekend (I did work all day Saturday at home) and rang me on the Monday to check I was OK. 

  • Boss K kept checking that I was OK every day.

That just gives you a wee flavour of 'Team A-Level' during the Ofsted inspection was like. 

For the record - our A-Level students were beyond marvellous - calm, supportive and even hugely defensive of us - to the extent that one lad that I teach in A2 Language and Literature - made a point of finding the Ofsted Inspector interviewing students to GRILL him about 'What the point of Ofsted was?' AND telling him, 'My teachers teach differently when you are not here [wait for it, it's good] - the teach BETTER.' 

So, on Wednesday afternoon, with the GCSE re-sitters whom I have written about before here and here  I was observed by The Inspector of  Dubious Competence. A more detailed account will follow in part 2 of this blog. 

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