Concern at Ofsted candidate’s non-teaching background

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

Teaching unions have raised concerns that the next chief inspector of schools in England is set to be someone with no teaching experience and who is heavily involved in the academies programme.

Last week, education secretary Nick Morgan recommended that Amanda Spielman be appointed to the post when Sir Michael Wilshaw steps down at the end of the year.

Ms Spielman is currently the chair of exams watchdog Ofqual, a post she has held since 2011. She has never taught but instead comes from a corporate background, having spent more than 15 years working in corporate finance, strategy and business planning.

She is also a strong supporter of the academies programme, having co-founded the Ark chain of schools, which has grown to include 34 schools. She retains a role as an education advisor for Ark and is also a trustee of the Stemnet charity.

Ms Spielman will now have to appear before the Education Select Committee, which will then advise Ms Morgan before she makes a final decision on the appointment.

However, the recommendation has angered teaching unions because of Ms Spielman’s lack of teaching and school leadership experience.

Kevin Courtney, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “To have as the new chief inspector of Ofsted a person who has no teaching experience and who is heavily implicated in the academy programme certainly does call into question both their suitability and impartiality for the job.

“It is a sad indictment of this government’s attitude to education that they place such little value on the experience of teachers and headteachers, that they would not consider such a background necessary for the chief inspector’s role.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: “We wish Amanda Spielman every success as the next chief inspector of Ofsted. It is a key post which carries national responsibility for maintaining and improving education standards in England.

“However, we note that Amanda Spielman has never taught, has never led a school or a major public institution, and as chair of Ofqual she has presided over qualification chaos in secondary schools.”

In announcing the recommendation, Ms Morgan said: “From helping to set up one of the country’s top academy chains, to acting as a council member for the Institute of Education, to overseeing our ambitious qualification reform programme, Amanda has extensive experience at the frontline of the education system, making her uniquely qualified to take up this important role.

“I know that she is the right person to deliver the education White Paper’s commitment to continue to improve the quality and consistency of Ofsted’s inspections, ensuring that it plays a central role in realising our vision of educational excellence everywhere.”

During his tenure, out-going chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has clashed with the profession on occasions but has also developed a reputation for being unafraid to challenge government policy.

Most recently he raised concerns about the poor performance of seven multi-academy trusts (MATs), also calling into question the government’s ambition for all schools to be academies and part of MATs.

Dr Bousted believes that the Department for Education now wants a chief inspector who is more supportive of government policy.

She said: “Nicky Morgan will doubtlessly be relieved to have a less ‘troublesome’ chief inspector than Sir Michael Wilshaw, who, although he got many things wrong, was unafraid to challenge the government’s policy when he thought it was wrong. Whereas Amanda Spielman’s record is of agreeing with and implementing the government’s policy, and we expect Nicky Morgan wants more of the same.”

School leaders, meanwhile, called for Ms Spielman to engage with the profession.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “If this appointment is confirmed, we are sure that Amanda’s broad experience in education and business will help her to oversee a remit which extends widely beyond schools, and we look forward to working with her. We would encourage the new chief inspector to actively engage with current school and college leaders in determining the future direction of inspections.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “Ofsted has begun a process of reform in recent months to take up a more constructive position in the education system, but there is much work still to be done and a rapidly changing environment to keep pace with. We need to reduce the burden of inspection on good institutions and strike the right balance between data and judgement. We look forward to working with the new chief inspector on these issues and more."

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