The Cult of INSET

December 8, 2007

Schools are host to a new religious movement, hidden from the students but familiar to all teachers, known as INSET.

Worship takes place in schools on specially designated festivals called “INSET days”. On these days the students are allowed to stay at home so that teachers can congregate for their religious rituals. Like most rituals the benefits are entirely spiritual and no earthly purpose would be discernable to outside observers.

The central rite which takes place on INSET days are religious services attended by all the teaching staff in a school and sometimes by other staff as well. The object of worship in this service is the deity known as Powerpoint. Adherents will sit watching slides proclaiming the teachings of the Cult of INSET. Many participants in the service appear to achieve an altered state of consciousness. In order to reinforce the spiritual experience all of the congregation will receive a handout containing an iconic representation of the slides. An elder will chant the contents of the sides, sometimes offering elaboration of the spiritual message contained therein. Sometimes these services will last for hours. Occasionally lay teachers will be allowed to contribute to the service. Often some of the service will be led by a Consultant (a type of guru) who will arrive from elsewhere with a spiritual message.

The liturgy for the service varies but there are certain consistencies. Usually it will be declared that the school is a very good school with many very able teachers carrying out exciting and important activities. This is a spiritual rather than a literal truth and will be repeated in any school no matter how awful and unexciting the school and its activities actually are. Prophecies about the future will also be presented, under titles such as “Target-Setting” or “The School Calendar”. Moral guidance will be presented in the form of advice on teaching and learning ritually preceded by claims that it is supported by research or that a school which followed the advice has improved its results massively. Again this appears to be a purely spiritual claim unrelated to any facts, and the advice will be of no use for actual teaching.

The congregation will also be split into smaller groups during INSET days. They will be divided into Departments in order to perform acts of penance such as tidying the stock cupboard or putting up displays. They may also be divided into groups for “discussion”, another ritual whose meaning and purpose is unclear although it is often suggested that it will in some way influence the future of the school.

The theology of the Cult of INSET is fairly complex. Believers can achieve salvation only through the repetition of slogans and the completion of paperwork. Like most cults it is believed that the end-times are near. The cult leader is likely to outline the official eschatology during the service. The first sign of the end is an envelope arriving from OFSTED. Within days of the envelope OFSTED will arrive to deliver judgement on the faithful. Only those whose faith in every decree from the leaders is greatest will be saved and ascend, while the faithless, particularly those who fail to share their learning objectives, will be judged Unsatisfactory and condemned.

Of course, as with all cults, apostates are ostracised and never mentioned again. Elders are constantly on watch for those whose faith may be weakening, reminding them they must be positive at all times. Questionnaires are distributed to the flock as part of a search for heretics.

If you fear that any of your friends and family are involved in INSET it is recommended that you deprogramme them by forcing them to call in sick and stay at home watching TV and drinking instead.



  1. Judging from the title, you have fallen victim to the new virus which swaps ‘l’ and ‘n’ round on the keyboard.

  2. Sometimes at INSET a divine being from a higher plane known as “County” may appear. These beings have transended teaching and with sufficient idolisation from SMT can be encouraged to share pearls of wisdom with the congregation.

    Sadly, at my old schools, the worshippers did not always display the correct appreciation of their knowledge and some were forced to ascend to “county” visibly upset by their experiences in the mortal realm.

  3. Lovely pastiche

    And lo! it came to pass that the commandments were handed down in INSET’s throughout the land

    The first being thou shalt refer to targets at all opportunities, yey, even in the face of forgetfulness.

    The second being that sub level progress shall be made, as that school in Aberdeen did it.

    The third being that PowerPoint shalt have slogans adorning every slide. Exalted shalt be the County that delivereth! Praised shall be its peons!

    The fourth, exalted shalt be the stakeholder, for they are at the center of all.

    The fifth, exalted shall be the phrase personalised learning.

    Well done Oldandrew …. a rich vein here I think. I could have gone on … but I’ll leave that to others if they wish :)

  4. I’m not a spammer, honest, even though your server thinks I am. I had to behead a guy to break in here!

  5. In order to exclude the faithless, worship is conducted entirely in acronyms.

  6. Oh. My. God. (“Oh my Powerpoint!” would be blasphemous.)

    There’s a branch of this sect at my campus, too.

  7. You obviously forgot the ritual of the ‘staff evaluation’ form at the end of the day where the congregation gathers in the main place of worship to ‘anonymously’ fill in their real feelings about wasting a whole day doing tasks designed to make the elders CVs look more impressive. The elders take away the forms and put them into three categories :

    a) Offensive/negative comments – from those who have an axe to grind/couldn’t give a s**t about their career
    b) Positive – A**e lickers who want promotion
    c) Neutral/Nothing – Cowards who dont want to rock the boat/who couldn’t care less

    The Elders then follow the process of trying to identify each member of staff using sophisticated handwriting recognition methods and subtly take the appropriate action

  8. […] in case you need to provide some INSET at the start of next term about how children learn, you might want to look at this (apologies to […]

  9. Just to clarify a point: the children aren’t allowed to stay at home at all. The 5 ‘Baker Days’ were taken off teachers’ holidays: it’s not so much that the pupils stay at home but teachers come in. Which is why it is all them more galling when schools don’t provide decent training

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