Ofsted have been failing some of the country's top independent schools - not because of poor results, because the results are generally outstanding, but because the schools haven't been keeping up with the box-ticking exercises that they have been charged with. Things like:
- keeping CRB check documents in a separate location, rather than a central file
- not having a specific statement on 'behaviour management' in their school policies (perhaps because at the schools concerned, good behaviour is assumed to be the norm)
- not making parents aware that they can have sight of a copy of the school's plan to meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 2002
The one that make me choke on my cornflakes was:
- Children have "not been taught how to play appropriately" because at break and lunchtimes they "often run around the small area shouting and letting off steam".
But it's that word 'appropriately' that makes me want to chew the carpet and hit someone.
It's such a common usage these days that no-one probably thinks about what it means any more. If you try to unpick the meaning of the word in this sentence, it is saying that there are approved ways of playing, ones which fit all our preconceptions, and that doing anything different is somehow disobeying an agreed and sensible principle. It's a pompous and self-righteous word, one which says that I know better than you do what is good for you.
I don't mind the word itself. If I am ill, I want my doctor to prescribe me an appropriate medicine, that is one that is designed to do the job. If I am in the market for a new car, I would listen to advice on what model is appropriate for my needs. But when people start talking about laughter at a joke being 'inappropriate', what they are saying is not that the joke isn't funny (when laughter would be inappropriate), but that you shouldn't find it funny. A whole different concept. By using 'appropriate' in this way, you are saying that your opinions or views or prejudices are normal, mainstream and educated, with the implication that if you disagree, you are odd, badly brought-up, or too thick to tell the difference between good and bad.
It's the same trick an advertiser uses when they say "clever people buy Snibbo." You buy the product (or adapt your behaviour) to fall in line with what someone else thinks is good and proper. It plays on the desire to conform.
So children playing like - well, children - is 'inappropriate'. What would they have them do? Sit in the same classroom and do homework? Get the chairs in a circle and conduct a session of enlightened self-criticism? Read a nice book? (Appropriate author and content, of course.)
When it was Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools, they were checking that teaching and learning were up to standard, and a good thing too. It seems that, when they find a school where the teaching and learning are exemplary, they have to find trivia to criticise.
Because they must find something to criticise, mustn't they? We can't have private schools being successful, after all.