TM4T - What's New 42 - The Mystery Form

Ever tried to fill in a mysterious form and puzzled over what the boxes mean?  The anonymous blog-post below is an extreme example of how some schools build bureaucracy upon bureaucracy over a period of years. Big thanks to the author of this post but we would LOVE to know a bit more about the school involved - and we would really, really love to see the lesson planning form itself.... please???



In 2012, when my son's head-teacher found out that I was a systems analyst, she asked for a bit of help. She wanted me to redesign the form which was used in their school for Lesson Planning. This was a printable word-processed form with a bewildering number of boxes to fill in. It clearly wasn't completed by every teacher for every lesson - its main use appeared to be in observations and inspections, as evidence of thorough preparation.

I interviewed the deputy head, who explained what each box on the form was used for and what the abbreviations meant: NoSt meant 'Number of Students in Class', AVK meant learning styles (Auditory-Visual-Kinetic); SA-SA+ referred to special educational needs, and so on. It was clear that the form had evolved over a long period of time, and it seemed that every time a new educational idea or initiative had been introduced, it had resulted in a new box on the form. As a result this document had become darn near impossible to use.

One box, up towards the top right-hand-corner of the form, was labelled 'Pts', and the deputy head told me that he thought this meant 'Points' but he wasn't sure how it worked - he thought it might be something to do with class size. He always put zero in that box, he said. I had a glance through a pile of LPFs (Lesson Planning Forms) going back several years and I found that they all - without exception - showed 'Pts - 0'. I was intrigued. The long-serving school secretary told me that - as far back as she could remember - the LPF had always had a box headed 'Pts' and staff had always marked it zero points. I was now even more intrigued. The school secretary had in fact produced the original LPF about ten years ago, by word-processing a previous photocopied document which the teachers had filled in by hand. With her help, I tracked down some examples of the old photocopied forms, stacked in a filing cabinet in the old sports hall.

There were in fact two versions of the old photocopied forms - the more recent one looked pretty much like the current word-processed form, though there were fewer boxes, and more room for explanation; for example this form had a box which said 'No of Students' instead of NoSt. On the even older version, dusty and faded, there were even fewer boxes. The mysterious Pts box was still there, though, in the same place, and every form in the drawer showed zero points. On the oldest form, however, the mysterious box didn't say 'Pts' - but alas, frustratingly, I couldn't read what it did say: the form was a photocopy of a photocopy, and the text was hopelessly fuzzy - the last bit seemed to say NoSt+3. Maybe they used to award points for class-size?

I was about to give up, when a manila folder caught my eye right at the back of the filing cabinet drawer. Gold dust: it was labelled 'Pro-formas Master Copies'. With trembling hands I opened the folder (OK, OK, I exaggerate). There was a master-copy of the original LPF. The mysterious box said: Pints of Free Milk (No of Students ÷ 3).




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