Digby Jones · Ofsted · Sir Michael Wilshaw

Will Michael Wilshaw? He sure will!

I’ve long been thinking that radical and fundamental change in education will only happen in the UK when our economy is so seriously threatened by the likes of China, India, Singapore, South Korea, and the like, that the ‘powers that be’ would be forced to take corrective action. Indeed, five years ago Digby Jones, then head of the CBI warned us that if we didn’t pull ourselves together, China would be having our lunch and India would have our dinner.

In the past year or two, there are signs that this is beginning to happen. The present government (and, by the way, I strongly believe that this is a cross- party issue) has begun to release schools from the (often) dead hand of local education bureaucracy and has also begun to look at other, apparently successful models elsewhere in order to drastically improve the quality of education currently on offer in many schools across the country.
The latest example of this burgeoning tendency emerged at the weekend with the announcement from Sir Michael Wilshire that head teachers in ‘more than 5,000 schools are not up to standard and bear responsibility for unacceptably high levels of poor teaching’.
I don’t know Michael Wilshaw but I do know what he managed to achieve at Mossbourne Academy in Hackney. I know because my grandson goes to the school and I’m only too aware of the magnificent job he did there.
So, what changes is Wilshaw proposing?
·         From the start of the new school year in September, Ofsted inspections will take place without warning, enabling inspectors to scrutinize the schools warts and all;
·         The language of Ofsted reports will be simplified and comments in ‘blunt, straightforward and frank terms’ will be on the first page of each report, allowing parents to see how a school is performing at a glance;
·         There will be a new Parent View website for parents to post opinions about schools online;
·         There will be more frequent inspections of schools designated as requiring improvement. They will have two chances to make improvements within three years, after which they will have a twelve- to eighteen-month period in which to improve or be placed in special measures;
·         What’s more, poverty will not be accepted as an excuse for low levels of achievement. Wilshaw is quoted in the Sunday Times (05/02/2012) as saying that schools should have ‘the “moral purpose” of improving the life chances of the poor’; and, furthermore, that if low SES pupils are not getting the kind of enrichment that their more middle class peers get from home, it is the responsibility of the school to make good the difference.
Clearly, this will be a challenge and there is a long way to go, but three cheers for Wilshire for setting the benchmark!

5 thoughts on “Will Michael Wilshaw? He sure will!

  1. Wilshaw was reported in the Guardian as having this to say in a speech previous to his appointment:

    "Wilshaw has not set out to endear himself to teachers. Even before officially taking up his Ofsted post, he made a speech in which he said that in future a "satisfactory" rating by inspectors should be viewed as unsatisfactory, and that Ofsted should look at whether heads were being too generous to failing teachers when allocating performance-related pay.

    A good head would never be loved by his or her staff, he added: "If anyone says to you that 'staff morale is at an all-time low' you know you are doing something right."

    Either he has been mis-quoted or he is an egocentric bully. How can you approve of anyone with this approach to management?

  2. Hi Maizie!
    In answer to your question: first, I have no idea whether he was misquoted or not. For that reason, I am puzzled as to why you would the ask me how I can approve of the statement he made.
    I can't say that I entirely trust the Guardian on this issue either, given their ambivalence on questions of public accountability.
    Was Wilshaw quoted correctly but out of context? I don't know. What I do know is that I taught in Hackney for fifteen years and I know what Wilshaw has managed to achieve at Mossbourne. He's done wonders for the area and given the Pembury Estate and surrounding estates a new pride in themselves. As you probably know, my own grandson goes to Mossbourne and with a bit of luck, he'll go to university – something he never would have done under the old regime.
    So, for me, Wilshaw has got a great track record. Will he be a great Ofsted chief? Who knows? Will Harry Redknap accept the England job and become a great England manager? The scale of the ascent is so much greater.
    You also have to recognise that when you're in a position like the one Wilshaw's in, you have to bend the stick in one direction or another. It's a political job, whether anyone would admit it or not. From time to time, he's bound to say things people don't like.
    Let's hope that the changes he brings are to the good. For me, ultimately, the real test is which constituency he serves, the kids or the teachers? I know which side I'm on.

  3. I was at the Guildhall when he made his Clint Eastwood statement and also his reference to low morale.
    Clearly he is an autocrat believing in an ends justifies the means philosophy.
    Processes based on humanity and mutual respect do not figure within his ethos. He is a very dangerous man with very right wing views. Democracy and the rights of the individual stop at the school gate. His model is held up as the ideal. We will be producing young people who as leaders will model themselves on him. All gravitating to the right wing of politics. The problem with these people is that they have their day. Now is his time. For us who want process and product, well we have to wait for the pendulum to swing back. Meanwhile a great deal of damage will be done.

  4. Thank you for leaving your comment, Anon.
    Frankly, I don't know what you're talking about when you spout platitudes about 'processes based on humanity and mutual respect'. Wilshaw has given hundreds and hundreds of children respect and a good chance in life to do well. I know because my grandson is at the school in which he was head teacher.
    We heard all this stuff about process and product thirty years ago. Unless you are specific about what you mean in educational terms, it's all so much hot air.

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