4 Things Sir Michael Wilshaw would never have said

April 23, 2016


Today, the Guardian reported that the hunt for Sir Michael Wilshaw’s replacement has reached its final stages. If the story is accurate, the shortlist is:

Amanda Spielman, the chair of exam regulator Ofqual and a senior figure at the Ark academy chain, is a frontrunner in a field that also includes Toby Salt, the chief executive of the Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT), Dame Alison Peacock, an experienced educator and primary school head, and Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.

I have quite strong views on which one of these should get the job, but for once I’m going to keep them to myself in case I jinx it. But what really struck me is how different from Sir Michael Wilshaw all the candidates are. The following are all from interviews with, or writing by, the candidates. Can you imagine Wilshaw saying any of the following?

Amanda Spielman interviewed in Schools Week:

“I knit for pleasure,” she says. “It doesn’t require you to wrestle with abstract concepts, and because I’m a fidgety person, I find it very settling. In another universe, I would knit in a lot of meetings as I find it easier to pay attention to what people are saying.”

Toby Salt, mentioned in a story in the Independent about children choosing their own headteacher:

Toby Salt, the college’s deputy chief executive, says: “It’s vital that the pupil’s perspective is heard in appointing the leader of their school but, of course, the final word rests with the governing body. This is not about turning headship appointments into an X-factor style audition, but input from students can be a valuable addition to the decision-making process.”

Alison Peacock, in an interview published by the ATL:

The school often goes to unusual lengths to help children who are struggling. When one boy, with a very difficult home life, was going round threatening other pupils and shouting at teachers, a teaching assistant working with him discovered that his mother bred guinea pigs, and the school invested in some and made him the keeper of the guinea pigs. “He was very kind to the guinea pigs and so he went from being someone scary in a hood to being the guinea pig-stroker,” explains Alison. “You can’t get those things from a toolkit. It’s about being creative, having empathy, being prepared to do something different, taking risks.”

Russell Hobby, in a blogpost that has since disappeared from the NAHT website:

There is evidence coming in, for example, that demand in the workplace for “routine cognitive skills” – based on easily digestible knowledge (like lists of kings and queens) – is in decline, as these tasks are automated and outsourced. Of course knowledge matters, but the future lies in problem solving and interpersonal skills. Unfortunately our testing regime is strongly biased towards knowledge that is easy to measure; not necessarily the skills that our children will need to make sense of the modern world…

They used to say that generals always prepared to fight the last war. Thanks to our assessment regime and fantasies of traditional teaching, we may be educating our children for the last century.

Or perhaps I’m wrong and actually Sir Michael Wilshaw does say this sort of thing all the time. I’ll buy a pint for anyone who can find a picture of him knitting.

Or stroking a guinea pig.

Update 23/4/2016: Picture from @jamestheo added.



  1. I can’t imagine any of these being considered if Gove were still SoS.

    • Indeed. As so often, Morgan is proving herself no better than Lucy Powell.

  2. “how different from”

  3. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  4. In fairness to Amanda, I asked her to tell me something about herself that people might not know, and her knitting was sitting on the top of her bag. When I interviewed Michael Wilshaw he told me he drinks green tea. Is that equivalent to knitting?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: