Through the looking glass


First job, take the register. A quick scan around the room. All but one accounted for.

“OK, where’s Katie this afternoon?”

The reminder that she was at her extra maths session flashed up. He noted the dot was amber.

“Don’t worry, I know.”

The room settled quickly to quiet as Mr L scanned the children in front of him.

“I’ve sent your homework marked back to everyone who handed it in. Good job from most of you. There are comments and any extra work needed on your tablets. George and Hassan, I still haven’t seen yours. By morning, without fail please.”

George and Hassan looked up at him and glared back. Believe it when I see it, he thought. Mr L looked at George. Hmm, still issues across the school, along with that exclusion last week. Scrolling further through the record didn’t make it look any better. He glanced at Hassan. Nothing flashed up. Maybe just a blip then, missing his homework.

“Anyway, it seems that there are a few sections that you all need a bit of a refresher on so…”

A quick nod put the relevant slides up on the screen. Mr L went on and covered the main points again. It was good to have the information from the homework so quickly. It really helped to show up what he needed to re-visit. He was still not convinced he had covered it well enough the first time. Everyone was well at work now, using the personalised worksheet delivered to their tablets, so it gave him a chance to speak individually to a few students. Amber. Glowing. Persistent.

Rachel gave him her book, and he quickly flicked through the relevant pages, the essay he had set last week. A quick instruction sent it off for marking. It came back a little quicker than usual. The summary flashed to his eye monitor. Not bad, but with significant spelling and grammar changes required. He checked the dot again. Still amber.


“The marked version has been sent straight to your tablet Rachel. There are a few passages attached that it will help you to read through to improve next time. Along with a list of spellings for you to revise. Can you go to the test booth before our next lesson? I’m sure you’ll get them this time.” He left Rachel checking just how much extra work she had been set.

He went through the class in the same way. The remote machine marking was efficient. And it was more than up to basic GCSE essay marking. He was sure it was not quite as good as he could do, given an evening and a bottle of good wine, but it did reduce the workload. A bit.

He looked nervously at the dot. Amber. Stubbornly amber.

The knock, when it came, was less of a surprise than it might have been. There were two faces at the window. Mr L walked to the door and stepped out into the corridor. Miss Rachet, head of personnel was there along with a dark haired man, maybe in his early twenties, that he didn’t recognise.

“Miss Rachet, is there a problem?” Mr L was quite taken aback by how large a small amber dot could look.

“It can’t be too much of a surprise that I’m here. Several of your groups have been on amber for well over a cycle now. All of them groups we would be expecting to have green progress.”

“All these groups are working on content that is known to need longer to show good progress. I thought that would be obvious to everyone.” He fought the urge to look at the dot. He willed it to change, even now.

Miss R explained, politely and calmly, she thought, that the systems were programmed with that information, and still the progress of the groups was not up to expectation. Mr L knew, as every teacher did, that being behind progress for more that a cycle was always going to bring extra scrutiny.

“We would like you to report to the re-assignment block for evaluation. Then they’ll work out what happens next.”

Mr L gave in quietly. There was no arguing with the dot. The machines couldn’t be argued with. They had the real time data from students work. It was cross-checked with work from dozens of other schools, hundreds of other teachers. If they said he was amber, then how could he argue? He was happy to take the benefits the system brought, so he had to accept the downsides. But this…?

“Ok, I’ll just finish the lesson and…”

“No, Mr L. Straight away. Mr M here will take over now.”

Shoulders slumped, Mr L followed her down the corridor, heading towards the re-assignment block. Miss Rachet followed. At a distance.

Closing the door quietly behind him, Mr M walked to the front of the room. he glanced around slowly. A good enough group. Everyone forecast a Grade 6. Couple of known problems. The red star next to George caught his eye. Definitely one to watch. He cleared his throat.

“Listen up class. Mr L will be moving on to other things. My name is Mr M, and I’ll be your teacher for, er, for the next few…..”


No technology was overstated in the writing of this piece.


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