New Ofsted chief fires warning shots

2nd December 2011 at 00:00
Sir Michael Wilshaw will ban `satisfactory' and encourage link between pay and performance

Ofsted's next chief inspector set out a controversial raft of policies this week, including plans to condemn schools that give teachers automatic pay rises when not enough lessons are "good" and to assess staff standards of dress.

In a wide-ranging speech, Sir Michael Wilshaw said he is also planning to broaden his drive for higher standards by ending the watchdog's description of schools as "satisfactory" and having inspectors check heads' judgments on individual teachers.

The outgoing head of Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, east London, signalled his intention that Ofsted should "comment on the link between the quality of teaching and salary progression" on the day the Government admitted it needed to further rein in public sector pay.

Sir Michael, who starts the job in January, gave the example of a school where inspectors judged only half of lessons to be good or better. If they then noted that most teachers had progressed to their next salary point, they needed to ask "whether the performance-management system of the school is sufficiently robust and providing good value for money".

The idea will encounter strong union resistance. NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said schools were already denying pay rises to teachers who had met all their performance-management objectives. "This is just another way to penalise teachers," she said. "He probably doesn't understand that Ofsted has got no remit for pay. If Ofsted's remit is going to be extended, I would expect the Government to be consulting us about that."

But in his speech - his formal farewell as Ark Schools' education director, a role he combined with his headship - Sir Michael revealed he was also interested in changing the remit of Ms Keates' own organisation. "With the impending demise of the GTC (General Teaching Council for England), unions should be increasingly seen as regulators of the profession - as voluble on professional standards as on pay and conditions," he said. "As prepared to condemn, for example, unprofessional dress as unacceptable levels of workload."

Sir Michael said the image that teachers conveyed to pupils was so important that Ofsted should comment on teachers' "dress and demeanour".

His talk also touched on the growing number of academies by warning that the Government could not monitor or administer 30,000 schools from the centre, but had a "duty to put in place local checks and balances".

He also floated the idea of local school commissioners or district superintendents who would not be political and would be directly responsible to the secretary of state.

Sir Michael said Ofsted should replace the "satisfactory" descriptor with a "simple grade 3", "because it sends the wrong message on the nature of acceptable provision".

He also suggested that some children were designated as having special educational needs "too quickly as a cover for not teaching them well enough in the early years".

Sir Michael also said that heads must be leaders of teachers, "not head managers or head administrators". He has already called on "mediocre" heads to do more to tackle incapable and "coasting" teachers, and this week revealed that the inspectorate should have access to "formal reports from the headteacher to the governing body which summarise collective and individual teacher performance". Ofsted should then comment on the correlation between this summary and its own judgments.

Sir Michael told his audience that teaching was a "noble profession" currently enjoying the best new entrants he had seen in his 43 years in the job. Ms Keates said: "Every single word that is leaving his mouth is about denigrating the profession. This is not an auspicious start."

But Ofsted's next leader is unlikely to be upset by this response. During his speech, he read from a letter sent to him by an underperforming teacher during his early years as a head. The teacher had written that Sir Michael was "crude and inconsiderate", had "the manners of a guttersnipe", and had been a "disaster" for the school's once happy teachers.

"The lesson of that," Sir Michael said, "is that if anyone says to you that `staff morale is at an all-time low' you will know you are doing something right."

SIR MICHAEL IN BRIEF

- Ofsted will ask whether schools giving teachers automatic pay rises where not enough teaching is good offers value for money.

- It should comment on staff standards of dress. This should also be upheld by teaching unions, which need to take a bigger role as regulators of the profession.

- The watchdog will stop describing schools as "satisfactory", because the label is misleading.

- Local school commissioners or district superintendents should be introduced because government cannot administer thousands of schools from the centre.

- Some children are designated as having special educational needs as a cover for poor teaching.

Original headline: Satisfactory is out. Linking performance and pay is in

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