Michael Wilshaw’s Speech : A Shower of Spite.

I was on such a high this morning. Zipedee doo dah high. Seeing tweets from people skipping into work after Northern Rocks with smiles on their faces was fab. The sun was shining, I’d lost another pound, life was good…

Enter Sir Michael with his “radical” speech outlining yet more changes to the way schools are inspected. It felt like a right slap in the face I tell you. Having spent a day with Mike Cladingbowl and Sean Harford on Saturday, I was starting to warm to Ofsted. But it’s like finding out that the Ewoks you’ve been playing with are really under the power of Darth Vader. His speech was a shower of spite.

Firstly, he was ungracious and churlish about our neighbour’s education systems, not missing a chance to attack Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland with no mention at all of the fact that all of those nations are committed to far more than examination results – that they all are attempting to embed educations systems with humanity at their hearts. Instead he wants us to emulate Asian systems. With their children pushed through private tuition at a cost of tens of thousands to their parents? (well no, he didn’t actually mention that) With their high stress and suicide rates? (no he didn’t mention that either). He just wants us to be like them. Well perhaps he could start by emulating their trust in their teachers. Oh, wait…

I’m struggling to find mentions of teachers in his speech. Leaders, leaders, more leaders, good leaders, outstanding leaders….where are the teachers? For that matter where are the support staff, the caretakers, the family liaison officers? Seems they make no difference. All you need is a leader and….oh, a set of textbooks.

He trots out the time weary phrase “tougher subjects” like Brecht, Shakespeare, Laban notation, four part composition are pieces of piss. And no, I’m not apologising for swearing.

He has the gall – the bare faced, shameless gall to trot out this little statement without the slightest nod towards the significant cuts being placed on schools and crippling cuts being placed on colleges:-

“Do they refuse to accept excuses for underachievement and are they prepared to go the extra mile to compensate for family background?”

Do you know what the extra mile is Mr. Wilshaw? It’s providing food for kids who are going hungry, counselling services for those with mental health issues, cracking under the strain of the system, home liaison officers to support families struggling to get their kids into school….I could go on for another decade. The extra mile costs money and you blithely expect it while this government is binding our feet in cloths made of shards of glass. Walk the mile yourself in the aftermath of this funding crisis and see how far you get.

At no point when he rails against GCSE performance of boys from “poor” backgrounds (and how many times do we have to remind these people that being a poor parent does not mean that you are a poor parent) – at no point does he question whether the GCSEs are the problem, not the child. Not the school. Oh no.

He’s too busy advocating that we put up statues all over the place to honour these great leaders.  Frankly, we’d rather have the money than have to jog past our Academy Executive Super Mario Heads in the town square every morning. That way we might be able to buy some bloody books.

He then has the cheek to suggest that the fact that this broken organisation has had to reform 22 times (and still hasn’t got it right) is a success and not an indication of its continuing failure. I can barely stop myself from cackling but I’m already scaring my children with my wild eyed disbelief and contempt.

I’ve read it over and over. Where are the teachers in your speech and vision Michael? Where is the humanity, the compassion? If I’ve ever been more angry reading a speech, then I don’t know when. I was open to listening to and engaging with Ofsted. I have very much liked the human face of Sean and before him Mike. But this is the real face. It is carved of stone. Unforgiving, uncompromising, uninspiring. I pray like Ozymandias, in the future, we’ll find the remnants of Ofsted lying forgotten in the desert.

Until then, I suggest we fight back. Challenge them when  they come in. Act in the best interests of your kids. Play down the importance of the organisation – rip up those banners which, as Mick Waters pointed out on Saturday, play right into the hands of the oppressor. “Ofsted says we’re”….Who cares? Put up banners saying “Our parents say we’re….” “Our children say we’re….” Starve them of oxygen. Be open to your parents and prospective parents about the impact of Ofsted on the quality of the holistic education that their child should get. Bring them on side. Be brave. Be strong. Because an organisation this out of touch cannot last for long.

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25 thoughts on “Michael Wilshaw’s Speech : A Shower of Spite.

  1. Debra, I too found myself spitting when reading this – though the self-praise did make me laugh out loud – modestly to add to all of MW’s other wonderful characteristics. The revolutionary idea – after the paragraph of how this is age of the great leader – is handing out gold stars! Well I suppose I should not be surprised at the crude behaviourism of Wilshaw – this is what he is like – though with far more sticks than carrots.

    But it’s OK despite the tacit implication that they need to sort their QA as there is no confidence in many of their judgements they still will be able in an omniscient way be able to tell everything about a school in a day or so.

    It is time for revolution.

  2. Wrote this in December!
    Whilst the Guardian editorial rightly says it is not part of the “Ofsted culture” to acknowledge the ways schools are getting better, and “thank everyone involved for their efforts”, perhaps it is time for a culture-change?(Academy or community school , structures don’t matter but support for good leadership does,11/12/14) Constant criticism of teachers and teaching, which has been the norm ever since the first Ofsted reports were published in 1992, does nothing to rejuvenate already overworked staff, or to encourage new entrants into the profession, at a time when “recruitment is becoming a serious challenge”. Is it surprising that so many qualified teachers leave before completing five years in the classroom?

    Wilshaw acknowledges that “academy autonomy” can lead to dangerous isolation, but then names and shames local education authorities with too many under-performing schools, when many of the problematic schools are academies or free schools. It seems he takes every opportunity to criticise when a more sensible route of praise and advice is ignored. Teachers would appreciate much more some guidelines on marking expectations and progress monitoring; parents need to be informed by Ofsted that it is not essential for every piece of work to be corrected, and given five line comments on how improvement can be attained; sixty hour weeks for teachers are simply counter-productive!
    After an “unsatisfactory” verdict of a school by Ofsted, a Training day for the staff, with the same inspection team giving advice on how lessons could be improved, must be a way forward. If standards have indeed, “stalled” in secondary schools, Ofsted should surely be calling for smaller class sizes, more classroom assistants, more units for the badly behaved and more hi-tech facilities? Not every school can simply appoint a new “superhead” to come in and immediately expel sixty or so pupils as a method of improvement; some may see such action as strong leadership but others might simply regard it as “passing the buck”.

  3. “I pray like Ozymandias, in the future, we’ll find the remnants of Ofsted lying forgotten in the desert.” Beautifully put, in a beautifully written piece. How long can we struggle on being ground down by these pen-pushing soul-less desk jockeys who have so little teaching experience yet presume they can dictate about education? Bob Dylan needs to write a new song “Where have all the teachers gone, long time passing…”

  4. I wonder how OFSTED would rate me, if all I ever did was criticize my children’s performance. Wouldn’t it be nice if they came in and actually provided some help.

  5. In the words of the great philosopher, ‘Meatloaf’, “You took the words (including the swear words) (although not quoted by Mr Loaf) right out of my mouth.”

  6. I think that you make a salient point about schools and their banners – they add nothing to the children’s experiences and are often put up by the same schools that claim the system isn’t fair or that league tables don’t tell the whole story when it doesn’t go their way. I dislike them intensely and wish schools wouldn’t waste valuable money on them!

  7. Michael Wilshaw and his Ofsted regime simply reflect the totalitarian attitudes towards human beings of the neocon politicians and neoliberal economists who have been given free rein in the West for several decades now. It is a form of psychopathology with inevitably catastrophic consequences which has been allowed to infect the body politic and even dominate university departments. We, our children and our planet have been paying the heavy price.

    Interestingly, it is the Greek people who have become the first to stand up against this tyranny and deliver a resounding “No!” in the name of all true Europeans. Now you can see why contemporary governments would have schoolchildren study Roman emperors and their conquests rather than Greek heroes, literature and thinking!

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