Former Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw was famous for comparing himself to the Clint Eastwood character, Pale Rider. He notoriously said:
‘…If anyone says to you that staff morale is low, you are doing something right.’
Heads, Sir Michael said, were ‘mavericks’ who used ‘I’ and not ‘We’.
But the present Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman is having none of this. In her speech to the Festival of Education today she makes it clear she’s changing the emphasis from ‘hero head’ to heads who lead ‘well-functioning teams’.
Spielman attacks window dressing: ‘gushing profile pieces’ of ‘visionary’ heads; training pupils to jump ‘accountability hoops’; and paying lip service to British values by placing ‘the Union Jack in the corridor’ alongside ‘pictures of the Queen’.
British values – I would call them universal values – of ‘liberalism, tolerance and fairness’ are best promoted by ‘giving young people a real civic education’, Spielman says. How best to do this will form part of Ofsted’s curriculum survey – a project started by Spielman to discover the ‘curriculum meat’ which she says is too easily lost during inspection when it is just one area under the heading ‘leadership and management’.
Spielman wants Ofsted to become ‘a force for improvement in education’. Inspection was about more than publishing a report. Spielman believes Ofsted can add ‘real value’ by combining inspectors’ judgements with current research to produce ‘robust analysis of what is working well’. This will prevent education policy being ‘based on personal prejudices or hobby horses’, she says. (Schools ministers please note).
‘All children should study a broad and rich curriculum’, says Spielman. Preparation for GCSEs, although important, should not narrow what pupils study. She is unhappy about shortening key stage 3 in order to increase key stage 4. And she’s scathing about schools where 90% of pupils take the European Computer Driving Licence which can be achieved in just two days; schools which deny pupils who speak English as an Additional Language the chance to learn another language because the EBacc requirement can be fulfilled by letting them take a GCSE in their home language; and primary schools that scrap most of the Year 6 curriculum to focus on English and maths.
‘If you are doing any of these things then you are probably doing most of your students a disservice,’ Spielman says. Such schools are putting their own interests before those of their pupils.
ADDENDUM 15.55. Spielman made it clear to Schools Week editor Laura McInerney that she doesn't want to 'get into the space' of defining the curriculum. According to Schools Week, Spielman was 'stressing that inspectors would look more closely at whether they [schools] were properly thinking about their curriculum, planning it well, and delivering it effectively'.