What would Ofsted have made of my problem pupils?

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From: Brian Hanwell, Tideswell, Derbyshire.

fortunately for me there were no Ofsted inspections during the years when I was a headteacher in the West Midlands. We just had visits from Her Majesty’s Inspectors whose role was to advise rather than pass or fail us.

On the day I retired, one inspector did have the cheek to say that I had “got away with murder” during my time as a headteacher, but I chose to believe that he was joking!

I dread to think what Ofsted would have said about my performance as a headteacher. Consider for instance the following example of how I always strived to educate my pupils according to their individual needs.

Being a permissive and tolerant head, I frequently admitted children who had been excluded from other schools because of aggressive and disruptive behaviour and sometimes because they were withdrawn – or very nervous. I always agreed to admit such children because from experience I knew that they were never as bad as they had been painted and that they could be helped.

One day I took a group of 14-year-old girls with behavioural problems into Birmingham for a session of social education.

After looking round a large department store, we went to the store’s cafeteria to have lunch. I gave each girl money so that they could pay for their own meal. The girls moved along selecting what they wanted. The lady server put the chosen items on to the girls’ plates. I was so proud. My girls were behaving like proper ladies.

But then, suddenly, things turned sour. Jane – an impulsive girl – made the mistake of holding out her hand with the money in it, to the lady server. The lady looked annoyed and called out: “You don’t pay me, you pay at the till, stupid.”

Jane’s reaction was immediate. “Well, I won’t bloody pay at all,” she said, throwing the plate full of food at the lady.

The plate landed on the lady’s chest. As the food (stew!) ran down her front, she let out a piercing scream. Within minutes the store manager arrived.

When things had calmed down I explained to him what the girls’ problems were and suggested that the lady server could have been more polite. The manager was very understanding and after apologising to Jane he arranged for us to have a free meal.

Later, back at school Jane wrote, very nicely, in her diary (every lesson being an English lesson!): “We went to a department store and had lunch on the management.”

Unfortunately, I did find out later that one of the girls, Amanda, had filled her pockets with costume jewellery while she had been in the store!

The next day, I took Amanda back to the store to return the jewellery and to apologise. Again, the manager was very understanding and treated us to another free lunch.

I guess Ofsted would have classified my school as failing!

From: M Hellawell, Cross Lane, Scarborough.

WITH reference to the proposed Ofsted changes, I absolutely agree with Miss W Mary Lister’s and D Cook’s comments (Yorkshire Post, May 11). Sir Alec Clegg not only had a big influence in the West Riding, but also the rest of Yorkshire. The present structure and implementing of Ofsted is not fit for purpose. It tries to justify its existence by pressure of tick sheets, achievement tables and comparison of schools, attempting to bring uniformity.

Each pupil is unique in personality and development. Locality of school and its catchment area also has an influence. None of these factors are taken into account. I also think there is too much emphasis on testing. The pressure put on teachers through all these schemes actually destroys innovation and good practice.

From: John Gordon, Whitcliffe Lane, Ripon.

THE name of Sir Alec Clegg, the Chief Education Officer of the West Riding, has appeared in your letter columns recently.

Sir Alec retired with the end of the West Riding in 1974, so it is odd that he should be remembered so many years later. Anyone interested in education should read an address he gave to teachers in his retirement year.

Ofsted needn’t bother to read it for it will be a foreign language to them. As Mrs Kellett, a name well known in Knaresborough, says in her letter (Yorkshire Post, May 15), a lot of things happened in those times. Words like creativity and innovation were not just ticked on paper; they were applied in the classroom by a teacher who had time to know the children.

From: H Marjorie Gill, Clarence Drive, Menston, Leeds.

HAVING just listened to the programme Any Questions? chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby, the last question concerned why the majority of pupils from private schools went to university and why the education in state-run schools was inferior.

The starry-eyed conclusion of the panellists and also the (well-educated audience) seemed to be that all parents were eager to make sure that their children were well-educated, but that government policies made sure that this didn’t happen.

What none of these people seemed to realise is that a large number of people have not been educated themselves and have no interest in t heir children’s education at all. Pity the poor teachers, is it any wonder that some young people don’t fancy the job?