Education in England is suffering the consequences of a “rushed revolution”, with academies suffering from patchy results and mismanagement, according to the former chair of Ofsted.
Speaking to the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) today, Baroness Sally Morgan, who left her Ofsted job this month, said the government’s attachment to the market had led to an “aversion to anything that smacks of national strategy”.
She particularly criticised the academies programme, saying that quality control had been “poor” and there were no incentives for strong-performing schools to help weaker ones.
“Patchy results, mismanagement and occasional scandal have been the inevitable result” she told delegates at the HMC's annual conference at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales.
The “perceived obsession” with free schools had also not helped, she said.
“In the rush to disrupt the prevailing order, unsuitable groups were allowed to open schools and the Department [for Education] now has to deal with the consequences,” she added.
Baroness Morgan, a Labour peer, said that if there was to be a market in education it had to be managed. “A national education policy demands a national, thought-out, joined-up strategy.”
The decision not to give Baroness Morgan a second term as chair of Ofsted was made by former education secretary Michael Gove in February this year.
The controversial move to replace her came during a difficult period for relations between the DfE and Ofsted and followed reports of a rift between Mr Gove and chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.
Sir Michael had told the media he was “spitting blood” over criticism of his organisation from two right-wing thinktanks with links to Mr Gove.
But despite criticising several government policies in her speech to the HMC conference today, Baroness Morgan refrained from attacking Mr Gove directly.
She said he was clear from the start that he was determined to reform schooling so poor children had a fair chance of getting a great education.
“It’s undeniable that he changed the face of English education in a remarkably short space of time, probably more drastically than any minister in recent history apart from Kenneth Baker and Andrew Adonis,” she added.
Baroness Morgan also told delegates that they and their schools had to be seen as part of the wider educational community. “I know that many of you strive to equip your pupils with an awareness of and responsibility to the wider community,” she said.
“But the fact is that privilege is politically and socially toxic now in a way it hasn’t been for years. It is not only the poor that feel excluded, so do many of the middle class. You cannot afford to be seen as complicit in that exclusion.”