The joint leader of the NEU is writing to the chief inspector after a senior Ofsted official said working together with the union to improve things was “impossible” because it calls for the inspectorate to be abolished.
The Twitter spat between Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, and Sean Harford, the inspectorate’s national director, education, followed a Tes article in which Dr Bousted said chief inspector Amanda Spielman was “not a safe pair of hands”.
Following a tweet from a former headteacher, Colin Cattanach, which said “all unions and Ofsted should be working with schools for a common good”, Mr Harford replied: “I would agree about working together; the problem is, the NEU has continually called and still calls for the abolition of Ofsted, which makes working together to improve things impossible.”
In response, Dr Bousted wrote: “The NEU does call for Ofsted’s abolition. Ofsted claimed it could judge teacher quality in 20 minute lesson observations; promoted triple marking; had to purge 1,200 inspectors because they were not good enough; spearheaded the drive for data which takes up aeons of teacher time.”
To which Mr Harford said: “And the first sentence right there Mary sets out why it’s impossible, under your leadership, to try to work with your union to improve things for all in education. Which leaves a lot of teachers as your members without a credible voice at the table.”
When another teacher described Mr Harford’s tweet as a “shocking admission” that he was “refusing to work with the majority of teachers because they don't agree with you”, Mr Harford referred him back to a previous tweet in which Mr Harford had said Ofsted does engage with the NEU, which has seats at all its meetings with unions.
Chief inspector Amanda Spielman intervened after Dr Bousted sent another tweet which described Mr Harford’s tweet as “an inadvertant, I think, and startling admission. Ofsted will engage only with those who believe it has an inalienable right to exist.”
The chief inspector responded: “Mary, that is not what Sean said. You know that we continue to put the same substantial effort into engaging constructively with NEU as we do with all other major stakeholders. Sean highlighted the difficulties of getting constructive input from NEU.”
Dr Bousted told Ms Spielman that Mr Harford’s tweet was “there on twitter for all to see”, and said she “will be writing to you about this issue”.