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'Anyone who thinks Amanda Spielman's Ofsted is going soft would be mistaken'

Ofsted's chief inspector of schools might not shoot from the hip like her predecessor, but she's not going soft – even on those schools battling deprivation

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Ofsted's chief inspector of schools might not shoot from the hip like her predecessor, but she's not going soft – even on those schools battling deprivation

Three cheers all round for Amanda Spielman. Her Majesty’s Ofsted chief inspector has pretty much basked in the glory of her positon since taking up the role at the beginning of 2017.

Not only has she effortlessly stepped up, she did so in extremely trying circumstances, with her “sponsoring” education secretary, Nicky Morgan, being fired by Theresa May before she’d even taken up the role – and the Commons education select committee actively calling for her appointment to be rethought.

These arrows appeared to bounce off her. Very many in the education sector (and within Ofsted itself) are already celebrating Spielman’s reign as enlightened, thoughtful and considered.

Spielman’s fans fall into two camps. There are those who read the runes and really like what they see in terms of direction of travel – especially the recent policy positions on curriculum and on schools that are prepared to game league-tables by entering their students for equivalent qualifications. Her commentary on curriculum development and teaching to the test last month was welcomed by many – especially since it came with a mea culpa on behalf of the inspectorate.

Compare and contrast

Then there are those who like her simply for the fact of who she isn’t: Sir Michael Wilshaw. The tone and delivery of Spielman’s patter is very different to Clint Eastwood – you don’t get the feeling that most of her policies are based on personal prejudice.

Compare and contrast, for example, Spielman’s comments about the further education sector this morning, with those of Sir Michael only a few weeks ago.

But anyone who thinks Ofsted is in any way going soft would be very much mistaken: you only have to look up the section in today’s annual report about schools with a large proportion of deprived students.

Spielman has clearly no intention of letting such schools off the hook: "Inspectors will not judge the quality of education to be better than it is, regardless of the socio-economic circumstances of the school," today’s report says.

Sir Michael would no doubt have nodded along.

Ed Dorrell is the head of content at Tes

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