What to do when you get -the call- from OFSTED

If you work in a school you know exactly what I mean by get “the call” and didn’t need the addition of “from OFSTED” in the title. Headteachers, teachers, TAs and nursery nurses around the country know exactly when the dreaded OFSTED are likely to visit.

Since schools now only get a call the day before OFSTED arrive, the days of staff dashing around redoing displays, frantically copying out planning files and generally preening the school in readiness are gone. Less time to prepare also means less time to worry, but for many teachers getting the call means 24hrs of stress, anxiety and sleeplessness.

So what can you do to survive OFSTED?

Firstly, it is important to remember that this is a job. While teachers are among the most passionate and dedicated people I have ever been privileged to know, teaching is a job. Inspections are not a matter of  life or death, although at times it feels like it! So what should you do?

  • Take a deep breath, make a cuppa and sit down and make a plan. I know, more planning, but this is different, you need to plan the next few hours so that you do the most important things first, including making time for self care.
  • Eat and drink sensibly. As much as you may want sugary, fatty food to comfort you, and as much coffee and wine as your body can hold, all of these will give you a temporary high but then increase your stress hormone levels and leave you feeling tired and craving more.
  • Get moving! The last thing on your mind right now is exercise but even just a ten minute walk round the block or some simple stretching exercises will help your body deal with stress and you will sleep better.
  • Breathe. Everyone will be telling you to take a deep breath but they are absolutely right. Breathing deeply enables your body to counteract the basic fight or flight reaction your is being controlled by.  I created the video below to help students deal with exams but everything I teach them applies to you right now so give it a go!

  • Get an early night. I know, you want to stay up all night making sure everything is perfect but being awake and alert is crucial to surviving and doing your best. If you are tired and short tempered the day will be even more of a challenge.
  • If you struggle to sleep try some simple mindfulness to help your brain disconnect from the inevitable mental chatter. As you lie in bed think about how your body feels. Does it feel tense anywhere? How is your breathing? Deep? Shallow? Are the sheets warm? Where can you feel them touching your skin? How does your body feel against the mattress? It may sound silly but by tuning your internal monologue away from the worries and towards your body you will find it easier to relax and sleep. You can also try the 7/11 breathing from the video or even find a simple guided meditation online. There are thousands on YouTube

So these are my top tips but I’m sure you will have some of your own too. Get up early, have a shower to wake you up, eat a healthy, filling breakfast and take healthy food you can eat easily if you end up working through lunch (and we both know you will so I will allow you this one day to break the golden rules!).

  • You are doing an amazing job.
  • You know your children better than anyone.
  • Don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet and point out things you are proud of that you feel they should notice (don’t count on them spotting it otherwise)
  • Smile and hold your head up high. You are awesome!
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