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New Ofsted chief fires warning shots

news | Published in TES magazine on 2 December, 2011 | By: William Stewart

Sir Michael Wilshaw will ban ‘satisfactory’ and encourage link between pay and performance

Ofsted’s next chief inspector set out a controversial raft of policies this week, including plans to condemn schools that give teachers automatic pay rises when not enough lessons are “good” and to assess staff standards of dress.

In a wide-ranging speech, Sir Michael Wilshaw said he is also planning to broaden his drive for higher standards by ending the watchdog’s description of schools as “satisfactory” and having inspectors check heads’ judgments on individual teachers.

The outgoing head of Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, east London, signalled his intention that Ofsted should “comment on the link between the quality of teaching and salary progression” on the day the Government admitted it needed to further rein in public sector pay.

Sir Michael, who starts the job in January, gave the example of a school where inspectors judged only half of lessons to be good or better. If they then noted that most teachers had progressed to their next salary point, they needed to ask “whether the performance-management system of the school is sufficiently robust and providing good value for money”.

The idea will encounter strong union resistance. NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said schools were already denying pay rises to teachers who had met all their performance-management objectives. “This is just another way to penalise teachers,” she said. “He probably doesn’t understand that Ofsted has got no remit for pay. If Ofsted’s remit is going to be extended, I would expect the Government to be consulting us about that.”

But in his speech - his formal farewell as Ark Schools’ education director, a role he combined with his headship - Sir Michael revealed he was also interested in changing the remit of Ms Keates’ own organisation. “With the impending demise of the GTC (General Teaching Council for England), unions should be increasingly seen as regulators of the profession - as voluble on professional standards as on pay and conditions,” he said. “As prepared to condemn, for example, unprofessional dress as unacceptable levels of workload.”

Sir Michael said the image that teachers conveyed to pupils was so important that Ofsted should comment on teachers’ “dress and demeanour”.

His talk also touched on the growing number of academies by warning that the Government could not monitor or administer 30,000 schools from the centre, but had a “duty to put in place local checks and balances”.

He also floated the idea of local school commissioners or district superintendents who would not be political and would be directly responsible to the secretary of state.

Sir Michael said Ofsted should replace the “satisfactory” descriptor with a “simple grade 3”, “because it sends the wrong message on the nature of acceptable provision”.

He also suggested that some children were designated as having special educational needs “too quickly as a cover for not teaching them well enough in the early years”.

Sir Michael also said that heads must be leaders of teachers, “not head managers or head administrators”. He has already called on “mediocre” heads to do more to tackle incapable and “coasting” teachers, and this week revealed that the inspectorate should have access to “formal reports from the headteacher to the governing body which summarise collective and individual teacher performance”. Ofsted should then comment on the correlation between this summary and its own judgments.

Sir Michael told his audience that teaching was a “noble profession” currently enjoying the best new entrants he had seen in his 43 years in the job. Ms Keates said: “Every single word that is leaving his mouth is about denigrating the profession. This is not an auspicious start.”

But Ofsted’s next leader is unlikely to be upset by this response. During his speech, he read from a letter sent to him by an underperforming teacher during his early years as a head. The teacher had written that Sir Michael was “crude and inconsiderate”, had “the manners of a guttersnipe”, and had been a “disaster” for the school’s once happy teachers.

“The lesson of that,” Sir Michael said, “is that if anyone says to you that ‘staff morale is at an all-time low’ you will know you are doing something right.”


- Ofsted will ask whether schools giving teachers automatic pay rises where not enough teaching is good offers value for money.

- It should comment on staff standards of dress. This should also be upheld by teaching unions, which need to take a bigger role as regulators of the profession.

- The watchdog will stop describing schools as “satisfactory”, because the label is misleading.

- Local school commissioners or district superintendents should be introduced because government cannot administer thousands of schools from the centre.

- Some children are designated as having special educational needs as a cover for poor teaching.


Original headline: Satisfactory is out. Linking performance and pay is in

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Comment (15)

  • So sir Michael Wilshaw will ban ‘satisfactory’ will he? Hmmmm!

    I always thought that South American dictatorships banned words; I suppose the ruling Tory junta love this & are planning banning other words like ''socialist'' or . David Cameron wants to ban the word ''poor'' as he pointed out last week that thought people we call poor aren't REALLY poor; somebody just defined them as poor.

    Having inspectors check heads’ judgments on individual teachers is going to be an interesting task seeing that an Ofsted inspection has time to see an individual teacher for all of 5 minutes. What are Ofsted inspectors going to do; hold up cards like the do in dance competitions with a 5.9 written on them & check the head is holding a 5.9 as well? I don't think sir Michael has not really thought about this new Gove initative; I do hope Gove is paying him well for this public humiliation. Each time sir Michael opens his mouth as the puppet of Gove humiliation follows!

    Quote: 'During his speech, he read from a letter sent to him by an underperforming teacher during his early years as a head. The teacher had written that Sir Michael was “crude and inconsiderate”, had “the manners of a guttersnipe”, and had been a “disaster” for the school’s once happy teachers. “The lesson of that,” Sir Michael said, “is that if anyone says to you that ‘staff morale is at an all-time low’ you will know you are doing something right.”

    Firstly, I don't believe that story. A teacher may have written that letter but I'd suggest it was sir Michael who was actually 'underperforming' as a head if one of his staff actually thought that. Any teacher saying that is basically telling a head that THEY are not being supported.

    Secondly, Reality TV programmes like The Apprentice, the show where candidates compete to impress Lord Sugar are actually cartoons of real life rather than real life. Nasty guy Sugar would not last two minutes behaving like that as an actual boss. Why then does sir Michael see this as a model of good management? Is he also a cartoon character?

    Quote: 'Sir Michael.........suggested that some children were designated as having special educational needs “too quickly as a cover for not teaching them well enough in the early years”.'

    Is sir Mick a trained SEN teacher or an educational psychologists? Or does he just have Extra-Sensory Perception powers? I ask that in all honesty because he does seem to be caliming to have the ability to detect children as having special educational needs or NOT having special educational needs remotely from a chair in Whitehall.

    Sir Mick may be wasted on teaching has he ever thought of a career in a circus; ok maybe he's going one better than that & turning Ofsted into a circus?

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    2 December, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Linking pay progression to the results of lesson observations is completely ridiculous - there are many factors that affect the grading of lessons and how well teachers teach, not just that teacher's ability and effort. An individual teacher also won't have that many observations in a year - what if the one they do have is satisfactory? Does that mean they don't get a pay rise even if they are generally an outstanding teacher and their class make excellent progress during the year?
    What Sir Michael seems to be completely missing is that the quality of leadership in a school is what sets the tone for teacher performance - obviously this is due to his own management style. How are teachers expected to produce consistently good and outstanding lessons when their jobs are being constantly threatened, adding to the pressure they are already under to do their best for the children and tick a lot of boxes?

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    2 December, 2011


  • I am so fed up with this sort of debacle - The whole thing seems designed to push teachers out of the sector as they are not allowed to be themselves. True, good honest teching comes from the heart as much as the head. So now we are to be graded on our standards of dress? How does that truely affect someones teaching? As long as we are reasonably smart, thn why should it matter. As a science teacher i do not wear a tie, I am happy to wear a lab coat, but feel that ties can lead to a health and safety issue (having burnt one already)

    Whats next, pants inspection? how about grading us via a prostate exam?

    I do however agree with the idea that satisfactory is not necessarily good enough, however I feel that progresion of skills is more important than the curent level.

    Maybe it time for teachers to Ofsted Ofsted - Too many of these people have ben away from the classroom for too long!!! I don't mind being criticised by someone I respect, but even my head has only taught 7 lessons in the last ten years - how can she really comment on my teaching - when i know that her last observation was lower than mine!

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    2 December, 2011


  • Good leadership is based on fostering a sense of mutual respect and support within a team of people. Creating a situation where people feel demoralised, threatened and ultimately demotivated is counter-productive.
    The Ofsted process is now being 'outed' as an oppressive, bullying system. Gove MUST go!

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    3 December, 2011


  • This is an astonishing comment, and if he means it then I’d suggest that he is entirely unfit to wield the influence that his new role gives him:
    “The lesson of that,” Sir Michael said, “is that if anyone says to you that ‘staff morale is at an all-time low’ you will know you are doing something right.”

    Did his 20+ years in Headship teach him nothing? Low staff morale usually points to arrogant, narrow-minded and (possibly) bullying leadership. Staff who are low in morale are not best-equipped to teach to the best of their ability. A climate of fear creates stress.

    Once again, someone bails out of school and immediately, in ‘inspector guise’ displays an alarming misunderstanding of the realities of school life.

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    3 December, 2011


  • New style Ofsted lesson observation: Student were scared, demoralised, threatened, the teacher must be doing something right, outstanding lesson.Does he Sir Michael really think this is the way forward?

    The trouble with strikes, working to rule and any form of industrial action is that not every one does it. The excuses I have heard are " the students will suffer, I did not become a teacher to strike, striking does not work, I can't afford to strike. Sometimes its like talking to low ability children.

    The way forward is to only have one teaching union, for everyone. From Heads down to T.A. Once you divide your opposition you have a better chance of winning.

    New category for the teacher of the year "Best dressed"

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    3 December, 2011


  • one question: why would anyone want to become a teacher in this day?

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    3 December, 2011


  • An outstanding male teacher in my school never wears a suit or tie, should I sack him? What does a professional wear, what is the code? Maybe we should all wear brown shirts or maybe black ones with nice little red arm bands with a nice little picture of our great leader.
    What dear old Mike should do is put the fear of god into all those happy Inspectors lives. Many are good honest and want the best for the children of the schools they inspect. Too many are just there for the money and are way out of depth. There is a huge job for Mike in establishing consistency and clarity across OFSTED. My anecdote - Inspector 1 looks at marking and declares it is outstanding. Next day Inspector 2 looks at the same books declares they are only satisfactory.

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    3 December, 2011


  • “The lesson of that,” Sir Michael said, “is that if anyone says to you that ‘staff morale is at an all-time low’ you will know you are doing something right.”

    Before I went into teaching about 6 years ago I worked and consulted across 30 companies in the private sector. Without fail, those with low staff morale are no longer here. - even if they were very successful they've fallen apart or been sold on. Those where the leaders cared about their staff, developed them and gain the staff opportunities have gone from strength to strength.

    My plan (as a science teacher) is to get out of teaching in the next couple of years and go back to what I was doing before. The sort of mad short-terism that this joker is suggesting is proof that teaching is not a place to stay.

    PS - as archiescout suggests, could you treat pupils like this? Perhaps only in the sort of facist detached-from-reality academies where you just kick out anyone who dares object to you.

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    4 December, 2011


  • If Sir Michael Wilshaw succeeds in raising standards & no satisfactory or unsatisfactory schools exist in the future: What are the characteristics of a system where all outputs are "good"?

    To even try to maintain that an education system can be adjudged to have no satisfactory schools is an act that reduces them to factories with all the necessary controls required for perfect products and engineered components. We know however, that in living, breathing systems, while expectations can always remain high, it is dangerous to be seduced by the kind of managerialism that takes our schools down an assembly line to standardisation.

    Given Sir Michael Wilshaw has a limited view of himself which see's others as always 'wrong' unless they agree with him; how do we know that HE knows what is excellent, good or a grade 3?

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    6 December, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Willshaw, Gove, Gibb the lunartics have finally taken over the asylum, they will make Balls, Woodhead and Baker look like your nice uncle. I have never witnessed such an attack on the profession in the last Twenty five years, and for no other reason but to exercise power and to take a dogmatic juxta position to what is perceived to be a cancer of bad teaching, which incidentally does not exist in any great amount. This enables so-called "regulators" to justify massive pay packets, banker style bonuses and lordships to themselves - it's time to make a stand, hit the morons where it hurts. I would love to see teachers standing for council office in Tory and lib dem marginal’s, on a single protest issue, lobbying councillors and MPs in their constituencies and of course union action and protest. There are many ways to hurt political groups without hurting your parents and pupils, this time next year this government will be hanging by a thread.

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    6 December, 2011


  • The big mistake is the title 'Sir'. why do they not give this type of post to someone who knows something about the classroom.

    Head for 20 years just means he has managed to avoid what he was originally paid to do for 2 decades.

    Just another Government puppet who barks the right bark for his masters. 100,000 teachers out of work and another 38,000 on the way what a joke.

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    7 December, 2011


  • “The lesson of that... is that if anyone says to you that ‘staff morale is at an all-time low’ you will know you are doing something right.”
    ---Sir Michael

    “Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror, sabotage. This is the war of the future.”
    ? Adolf Hitler

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    7 December, 2011


  • its quite depressing for inspectors as well

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    9 December, 2011

    Kyria Inglesa

  • Kyria is right - if Sir Michael really believes that low morale would be a sign of his success Ofsted staff are also in for a rough ride. Ominous.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    13 December, 2011


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