Ofsted: Amanda Spielman has no 'clear understanding' of FE, MPs say

7th July 2016 at 00:15
Commons Education Select Committee rejects the government's preferred candidate to be the next chief inspector

MPs have rejected the government's preferred candidate to become the next head of Ofsted, saying they have "significant concerns" about her suitability for the high-profile role.

Members of the Commons Education Select Committee said they were not persuaded that Amanda Spielman, currently chair of exams regulator Ofqual, had a "clear understanding" of FE.

But education secretary Nicky Morgan has insisted she will press ahead with the appointment in spite of the committee's concerns.

In a statement released this afternoon, Ms Morgan said: "As I have said, I was disappointed that the decision wasn’t shared by the committee who I believe have underestimated her. Having considered their response, I remain 100 per cent confident in my decision and will continue with the pre-appointment process.

“I believe Ms Spielman will make a highly effective leader of Ofsted who will not shy away from challenging government, schools or local authorities to ensure the best for our children and under her watch Ofsted will play a hugely important role in driving improvement in childcare, schools, children’s services and adult learning.”

Ms Spielman was put forward by Ms Morgan to take over from Sir Michael Wilshaw as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) when he steps down at the end of the year.

But following a pre-appointment hearing, the committee said it was unable to support the nomination, arguing that while Ms Spielman has a broad range of experience, it did not feel she had shown enough "passion" for the post.

However Ms Spielman has been backed by the Association of Colleges (AoC) and Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP).

'Surprised and disappointed'

Committee chair Neil Carmichael said: "The government's preferred candidate, Amanda Spielman, has a broad range of experience but failed to demonstrate to us the vision and passion we would expect from a prospective HMCI.

"The new HMCI will face the task of leading Ofsted to raise standards and improve the lives of children and young people, and we were unconvinced that Ms Spielman would do this effectively.

"Ms Spielman has experience of secondary education but she did not persuade that she had a clear understanding of the other aspects of the chief inspector's role, including early years, primary education, further education and children's services.”

The Tory MP for Stroud added that there was no urgency to appoint a successor to Sir Michael as his term does not end for six months, and called on Ms Morgan not to proceed. Earlier today, the education secretary said she was "surprised and disappointed" at the select committee’s report. 

"I chose Ms Spielman as my preferred candidate because I believe she will be a highly effective leader who will be unafraid to do the right thing and where necessary challenge schools, local authorities and government where education and social care services are not meeting the standards our children deserve. I will now consider their report and respond in due course," she added.

Passion not always positive

AoC chief executive Martin Doel said he had been "reassured by Ms Spielman’s comments on further education" when she appeared before the committee last week.

"While there may have been concerns that she has never been a teacher, we have had a series of chief inspectors at Ofsted who had little or no experience of further education. In this context, Ms Spielman’s lack of detailed knowledge did not seem problematic," he added.

AELP chief executive Mark Dawe called on the government to "go ahead with Ms Spielman’s appointment because we believe that she has done a very good job at Ofqual".

"As for the committee’s desire for passion, some of the previous chief inspectors have had this in abundance and if misdirected, it’s not always a good thing," he said. "We hear protestations that Ofsted doesn’t make policy but the passion has sometimes in our view led to overzealous attempts to influence it. 

"Furthermore, it seemed to us that the current chief inspector appeared to allow personal prejudice to interfere with inspection findings when reporting on FE and work based learning in particular."

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