Teachers at Bishop Challoner school in East London have voted to strike against increasing inspections and observations after their headteacher threatened to hold a mock OFSTED inspection.
NUT and NASUWT members already voted unanimously not to cooperate with any mock inspection, as part of their unions’ industrial action against excessive workload.
The headteacher performed a limited climbdown, saying that although extra lesson observations would take place, they would not constitute a full mock inspection. Workers were not satisfied by this guarantee, however, and voted by 50-4 to escalate to strike action in the event of any inspection going ahead. The strike could begin on Monday 15 October.
A mock inspection contains all the usual discomfort of an OFSTED — inspectors with questionable judgement, reams of lesson plans, stressed teachers and wasted hours better spent on teaching and learning — with the added obscenity of costing the school somewhere in the region of £35,000 (a teacher’s annual salary). Which would you rather have?
The strike vote has not come out of the blue. Members have been experiencing continual management attacks for the last year, with frequent abusive comments about their commitment to the students’ educational development and their own professional capacity launched in whole school staff meetings and in menacing “quiet little chats”. Staff turnover has increased. Workload, SLT drop-ins, and stress have rocketed in an atmosphere of fear where members felt isolated and powerless. With this vote, the culture seems to be changing.
The Bishop Challoner strike vote gives a model for how teachers in other schools around the country can use the framework of the existing NUT/NASUWT joint action to escalate to strikes against the over-inspection and observation culture.
Members at Bishop Challoner are also discussing what other action short of strike action they want to take, and what other pointless activities like the mock OFSTED can be done away with. And what will teachers do instead? Their job: teaching.
Who knows… some of them might also use the time they would’ve spent in this pointless inspection to develop a more even work-life balance.