But what would Ofsted say?

I knew if I used the O word you’d take a sneaky peek! God, teachers are predictable!

When I used to give inset for a living that question was always up there,”But what would Ofsted say?” Another popular question was, “I’m good but I need to be outstanding. What do I need to do?”

I gave my last inset July 2014. I don’t know if the preoccupations of teachers have moved on much since then. I don’t know because where I teach, “But what would Ofsted say?” is very rarely mentioned.

Ofsted could visit us anytime from September 2016. You know how quickly time passes. It’s round the corner. If Ofsted arrived tomorrow what would they find at Michaela?

We don’t mark books. We don’t do pair or group work. We don’t differentiate in the ‘traditional’ sense. We, the teachers, talk loads. We’re all, more or less, would-be actors. We love an audience. We love telling kids stuff.

In mfl things couldn’t be more different from what you’d expect. No pictures. Not one. No games. Never. No textbooks. No listening exercises. No pair or group work. No choral repetition.

We produce tightly packed booklets. All ability levels use the same resources. I don’t really understand what ‘progress’ means so Year 7 use phrases like, “c’est le moins qu’on puisse dire” and “bien qu’il le faille parfois.”

All classes use past, reasons, opinions, future, subjonctive all the time. We don’t ‘do’ the perfect tense or ‘do’ the subjunctive. We don’t ‘do’ grammar. And yet grammar is all we do. It’s everywhere.

What would you see if you popped into an mfl at Michaela. Kids read out loud lots. They love it. One kid at a time. Bottom sets, top sets. They love reading out loud. The texts are longer than you find in gcse exams. The vocabulary is pretty authentic I think. It’s not always easy to pronounce.

“Apprendre une langue étrangère n’est pas forcément évident. Si on a envie de réussir il faut lire chaque lettre. C’est vrai que les Anglais ont  pas mal de problèmes parce qu’il y a beaucoup de lettres qui ne se prononcent pas en français mais quand même, ça ne vaut pas la peine de rouspeter. Ça ne sert à rien en tout cas. Et de toute façon personne n’est parfait, certainement pas moi. L’erreur est humaine – comme le dit le dicton.”

That’s the typical kind of language Y7 and 8 practise. We’re always going for nice little nuggets that can be used in a broad range of topics. We like stuff kids can chuck in over lunch, “ce n’est pas la mer à boire” or ‘je ne demande pas la lune” or “c’est le moins qu’on puisse dire”.

So If you popped in kids would be reading at length. One at a time. The rest really listening. They’re a gorgeous bunch of kids. Or rather, we’re developing a school culture that turns kids from ordinary Y6 into extraordinary Y7 and beyond.

They listen. They correct one another’s pronunciation. It’s a lovely atmosphere. They support one another. They’ve got keen ears and very impressive accents. They speak a lot more quickly than gcse listening exams generally. They have no problems with silent letters when réaligner alors. They do a lovely rolled R. They’re reading lots, reading out loud, so speaking, lots, they listen to me and their peers very, very carefully and they write a bit too.

I was bursting with pride yesterday at 8.3. We revised orally loads of language from last year. They had the English and the initials that corresponded to the French translation. They sounded great. Their memory was brilliant. They wrote up the answers in a very earnest, but very proud, manner.

You can give our kids 50 sentences, a real mixture of proverbs, idioms, structures, tenses and topics and they beaver away. No silly questions. No work avoidance tactics.

This was Period 5. Just after lunch. At lunch break they’d been dancing and giggling and teaching teachers to dance. Others were shooting hoops. Others were playing table tennis. The mood was high. Teachers were laughing as much as the kids.

Anyone who reads my tweets knows I am immensely proud of our kids. It’s ridiculous how much I love teaching them.

But what I’m seeing more and more is that the teachers are finding themselves. Everyone is becoming more themselves. Their personalities are to the fore more than ever. I love that. Yes, our systems and routines are remarkably consistent across staff but we’re losing the robotic quality I’ve seen in schools sometimes. ‘Teach like a champion’ is all good and well, but ‘Teach like a champion  who trusts himself, who is confident to giggle with the kids, who has the self-awareness to  really let their personality shine through’, that’s always infinitely more important to me.

I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m more than 20 years older than many of my colleagues. I’m very proud of our kids. I’m very proud of my colleagues too.

Sometimes I try to step back and look at the school like a visiting parent would. I look at the corridors and lessons through different eyes. It takes my breath away!

Those kids, those families, they’re bloody lucky to have Michaela!

The manners, the confidence, the handshakes, the smiles, the way in which kids project their thoughtful answers across a silent lunch hall to an appreciative and respectful audience of 120 peers.

The way our kids behave on the street, their ties neat, their shirts tucked in, they stand next to the railing so to not block the pavement, they’re not shouting, nor swearing, nor dropping litter.

We’re teaching them to be lovely people. They’re polite, they work hard, they blow me away with théière knowledge of science, humanities, art, literature, maths, music – the list goes on.

So what woukd Ofsted say? If they don’t  see the love, the learning, the character, the charisma, the passion, the compassion, the professionalism, the pride, the joy, that I see every single day in every classroom – they must be mad!

its a  joy teaching at Michaela. If you  fancy joining us get in touch!



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