8th April 2016 at 01:00
Beware the big chief

Wilshaw’s legacy

FErret bears glad tidings: Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has finally agreed to stop referring to FE colleges as “large, amorphous institutions” that are “unsuitable for 16- to 19-year-olds”. Such observations made before the Commons Education Select Committee, you may recall, got him in hot water with everyone from the University and College Union to skills minister Nick Boles.

It took some doing, it seems, but Martin Doel, the chief executive of the Association of Colleges, managed to win these concessions in what a colleague described as “an amicable meeting” with Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector. But did Sir Michael admit he was wrong? Not a bit of it. Instead, he used the meeting to extract from Doel the view that all is not well in the state of FE.

Indeed, it seems, he concluded the meeting with the comment: “I’m glad I turned you to my way of thinking that the system is not working.” Pardon?

Apparently Sir Michael virtually admitted that he has no evidence, as such, to back up his strongly held views, and that they were simply reflections on previous conversations with headteachers. So why be so heavy handed?

Well, what is becoming increasingly clear, even to some of the inspectors under him, is that “Wilshaw is looking for a big hit before retiring”. One of them told FErret: “In the closing months, he is going to get more like Chris Woodhead looking for something to be remembered by. We are seeing this with his evangelising on academies.” God help us all.

So despite his agreement to be a bit nicer to the FE sector in general, don’t expect HMCI to completely let up on colleges any time soon. It would be more prudent to attempt to predict where he will strike next – with or without any supporting evidence.

There Igoe again

While Sir Michael’s recent utterances on FE mean that many in the sector will not mourn his departure when his contract ends later this year, much sadness surrounds the retirement of David Igoe from his role at the helm of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association. He’s the only skipper the good ship SFCA has ever had, and disappearing with him is a wealth of knowledge about the sector’s intricacies past and present.

But it seems there is more to Igoe than meets the eye. FErret gathers that at a retirement dinner at the House of Commons to mark this historic occasion, the SFCA’s deputy chief executive, James Kewin, mischievously outed two of his boss’ less well-known traits: his inability to remember people’s names and his fondness for mixing metaphors.

The finest example of the latter came after a frustrating meeting with civil servants, when Igoe was heard to complain: “No matter how much shit they throw at us, the cream always rises to the top.” Not a clue what on earth that’s supposed to mean. But FErret bids you a fond farewell, Mr Igoe. The new SFCA boss, Bill Watkin, has a tough act to follow.

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