Speechless

A Damned Good Teacher
3 min readNov 2, 2020

You have a deadline to meet and a pile of work that requires internal verification. You have left yourself ample time to complete the task, allowing for the fact you have to be reasonable to the member of staff from whom the work has come.

The programme for the internal verification was shared with staff in September and we are now in June. He has missed your first deadline and the second, third and fourth. SLT have been involved as well as the BTEC lead. The assignment briefs have been produced for him, support given with the planning of lessons and even some of the material delivered in your own classes. You are assuming it’s someone new to teaching? Wrong! This guy has spent thirty years in the teaching of PE and considers himself to be outstanding. Allegedly he has a degree and a teaching qualification (although these were never seen by staff at my school, it was just assumed that the admin people at his first post in the authority were thorough.

I was relieved to have the work in. Four missed deadlines and we are close to the external deadline. I read the first assignment. It was a pass. A strong pass, maybe verging on a merit. I read the second assignment. It was a merit but in places was very similar to the first assignment. The third assignment — worryingly similar. You start to see the pattern, don’t you? Six assignments, four of which are almost identical. The first thought through my head was that the kids had plagiarised an exemplar assignment. That would be the most logical answer to the problem. I had quite a good relationship with these lads so sent for them to see what had happened. The thing I like about working with kids is that most of them are honest. When you create a culture whereby they are able to be honest without retribution, even more so.

I sent for the first of the boys, Shane, and queried the similarity between his assignment and the others. Shane informed me that he had thought it was a bit odd too but had done what the teacher had told him. I questioned Shane further. It transpires that ‘Sir’ had put an assignment on the school network and told the boys that they could use it and just change a few words. My head is going nineteen to the dozen at this point. I sent for the second boy and got the same story. The third one showed me where on the system I could find the assignment they had been given.

The best part was stilll to come. I had completed coursework declarations, signed by pupil and teacher stating that the work was to the best of the teachers knowledge the pupils own. This episode was turning out to be well above my pay grade, that’s for sure. The deputy head for curriculum was pulled in to the situation. Perhaps somewhat naiively I expected some sort of disciplinary measures to be taken against said member of staff, Mr Pratt. Plagiarism as a result of teacher cheating and signed declarations to state the opposite. No, no, no. One cannot allow ones school to be at the centre of such things, especially when deemed to be outstanding. The directive was for me to take the boys off timetable for a day and to allow the assignment to be completed properly. So to clarify, not only did I have my own workload as a teacher and head of department, now I had to spend time allowing coursework to be re-done for a teacher who had had more one to one support than any SEN pupil in the school got and was on the upper pay spine.

Now, being painfully honest, as I did this I realised that rather than just a sample of one assignment, I’d need to look into the others. Unsurprisingly I discovered inflated grades and similarities between work although nowhere near as stark as in the sample being internally moderated. Again, perhaps foolishly, I thought this might bring about some sort of disciplinary action — especially when blatent cheating had already been identified. No. Nothing doing. In fact it was at this point that Mr Pratt the incompetent teacher pulled out his trump card — the complaint about management.

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A Damned Good Teacher

A teacher with the patience of a saint, a good sense of humour, oodles of forgiveness and a healthy dose of common sense.