Yesterday’s resignation of David Hoare as chair of Ofsted has raised significant questions around whether the watchdog is in the midst of a crisis.
Mr Hoare was forced to step down from his role at the inspectorate after remarks he made about the Isle of Wight being a poor, white “ghetto” that suffered from “inbreeding”.
Education secretary Justine Greening demanded the former City businessman resign in a meeting on Monday in a bid to “maintain the confidence” of the profession in Ofsted.
But despite Ms Greening’s swift action, heads’ and teachers’ leaders have raised concerns that the inspectorate is entering a full-blown crisis.
The scandal has given yet more ammunition to those who wish to attack Ofsted, and led to the NUT this week calling for the watchdog to be “replaced”.
Mr Hoare’s resignation could not have come at a worse time for Ofsted. The start of the academic year is around the corner and the organisation is just months away from losing its outspoken chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.
Concerns with Spielman
Amanda Spielman, currently the chair of Ofqual, is due to take over from Sir Michael in January, but she will be taking over the reins during an uncertain period.
Ms Spielman’s appointment as chief inspector sparked considerable controversy due to her lack of teaching experience.
Her position was weakened further still after the Commons Education Select Committee attempted to block her appointment, citing concerns that she lacked the “passion and vision” for the role.
The committee’s report added that Ms Spielman “did not appear to recognise the importance of building bridges with the professions inspected by Ofsted”.
Despite MPs concerns, her appointment was approved by the then education secretary Nicky Morgan.
However, Ms Morgan was sacked by prime minister Theresa May in last month’s reshuffle and Mr Hoare’s hasty departure means Ms Spielman is now even more exposed.
Unstable time for Ofsted
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said Ms Spielman will have to be “as safe as houses” when she comes into post.
“Ofsted certainly hasn’t been going through a very good patch at the moment,” Dr Bousted said. “It’s a very unstable time for the organisation and there will be interesting times ahead.”
She added that Ms Spielman would be forced to keep Ofsted out of the limelight when she takes over.
“This is not the type of transition period that Ofsted would have wanted as Michael Wilshaw steps down and Amanda Spielman comes in.”
Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was “crucial” that the watchdog appoints a new chair as soon as possible.
“It’s a very important appointment, we have a new HMCI coming in in four months’ time so it is vital they find someone quickly,” Mr Trobe said. “Ofsted is a very big organisation, with a very wide responsibility, so it is going to need someone with considerable stature.”
But the NUT pounced on Mr Hoare’s resignation and used it as an example of why the watchdog is in need of an overhaul.
“Ofsted is losing credibility as an inspectorate independent of government,” Kevin Courtney, NUT general secretary, said. “It is a major cause of excessive and debilitating workload for teachers and remains one of the main reasons teachers leave the profession.
"It needs to be replaced by a new model of school accountability which is demonstrably independent, developed in conjunction with the teaching profession.”
James Kempton, Ofsted’s senior non-executive board member has taken on the role of chair on an interim basis while Ms Greening starts the process of appointing a permanent successor to Mr Hoare.
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