Cut school autonomy to prevent bullying of headteachers, says Ofsted chief

Referring to the row over one school's hijab ban, Amanda Spielman says sensitive decisions should be taken out of schools' hands and passed to local authority, MAT or central government level

Adi Bloom

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman

The Ofsted chief inspector has suggested cutting down on individual school and headteacher autonomy, in order to prevent schools from being bullied.

Addressing MPs this morning, Amanda Spielman said that decisions currently being taken by schools could be delegated to local authority or even central government level.

During questioning by the Commons Education Select Committee, Ms Spielman discussed the case of St Stephen’s Primary, in the East London borough of Newham, where the headteacher reversed a ban on pupils under the age of 8 wearing the hijab, in response to pressure from campaigners.

'A very worrying world'

She said: “We have a very autonomous school system, where we delegate a great deal down to individual heads. Compared with most countries in the world, we give more autonomy to individual heads.

“If we are going to end up with an asymmetry, where people conscientiously running often very small schools can be effectively bullied and targeted in this way, I think we’re in a very worrying world.

“So it opens the question to me whether it is right to leave so much decision-making at individual school level, and whether some of these decisions that are becoming increasingly sensitive should be taken at local authority or MAT [multi-academy trust] or central government level.”

Ofsted: Schools 'shouldn't be bullied'

She added that the campaign against the hijab ban was largely conducted by people unconnected with the school.

“I don’t think that individual schools should be bullied by national lobbying campaigns,” she said. “I think that’s very different from consulting parents and finding working arrangements that are acceptable.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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