Skip to main content

The secret CEO: 'Sir Michael Wilshaw, please shut up'

Introducing our new magazine columnist: In the weeks and months ahead, the Secret CEO, who heads up a multi-academy trust, will give us insight into the world of power, politics and presentations at the top of education's pecking order

News article image

Sir Michael Wilshaw: please shut up.

Sir Michael Wilshaw has done it again. One can imagine the scene now: Sir Michael surrounded by his fawning courtiers, demanding from them heads on platters that he can serve up to secure a headline or two.

Yes, Ofsted should be independent. And yes, it should be able to challenge schools to raise their game. And yes again, it should not be afraid of putting a few noses out of joint in Sanctuary Buildings. But is this really the way that we are going to improve education? This time, it is the multi-academy trusts (MATs) that were in the firing line. And as we all know, MATs are a mixed ability class. Some are excellent; some less so. But without wanting to sound like a yoghurt-knitting hobbyist, doesn’t a more productive approach involve, y’know, educationalists working together to deliver proper, lasting change rather than this rather shrill volley of cheap insults?

Some of the worst behaviours in MAT-land came down to one thing: a dominant, preening CEO. These individuals were seemingly only interested in engaging in an educational arms race to have the most academies – a sort of weird proof of their educational virility. And when you look around, by and large (with perhaps the exception of one or two) happily these people are not around anymore – or at least they’re not when it comes to running MATs. The shadow cast by these individuals was, however, a long one, and it takes time to unpick the damage they caused and then rebuild. But this is more likely to happen far more swiftly through collaboration and support, than by sending the boys around for a public knee-capping.

Sadly, the same self-basting, preening behaviours embodied by the CEOs of yesteryear have resurfaced in Ofsted – exemplified and celebrated from the top down. It’s destructive, divisive and just downright demeaning of the office of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate.

One has to wonder whether the latest broadside actually has very little to do with any driving moral purpose to improve education, but instead is about something entirely different: power.  The new boy in town – step forward Sir David Carter, the new National Schools Commissioner – is causing real waves, not least in the Court of Sir Michael. Is this latest spiteful missive no more than the stamping of an egotist’s foot demanding attention? Could it be that the latest blast of sound and fury signifies nothing more than Sir Michael's anxiety that his crown is about to be snatched away?

The Secret CEO will soon be coming to a TES magazine near you...

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you