Why I won’t be complaining that the new chief inspector isn’t an ex-teacherJune 17, 2016
Amanda Spielman, who it was announced at the end of last week would be the next chief inspector, is not a former teacher. Despite my general interests in giving teachers a say over education, this really doesn’t bother me.
Firstly, there are the boring reasons related to the nature of the job:
- OFSTED doesn’t just inspect schools. It inspects colleges, nurseries and children’s social services.
- Developments in OFSTED over the last few years have been away from the idea that they should tell teachers how to teach or are about judging individual teachers. This is consistent with that.
- OFSTED is a large bureaucracy, much bigger than a school, and if we have learnt anything from the strengths and weaknesses of Sir Michael Wilshaw, it’s that what might work well in a school cannot be expected to work well in an inspectorate.
Secondly, I don’t accept that ex-teachers are the experts on education. Those who walk away from teaching and into another job in education are a mixed bag. Some make use of that experience, but others act as if teaching were beneath them. One of my motives for blogging, for getting a classroom teacher’s voice out there, is how often the media present a story about the views of “teachers” that is actually about educationalists, full time employees of teaching unions or headteachers. Obviously you can leave teaching for a good reason, or leave temporarily. But plenty leave because running a classroom is not something they were happy with, and telling teachers what to do was far more enticing. The thought of somebody going from being a classroom teacher to being a chief inspector appeals to me, even if it’s not remotely realistic. But there are plenty of ex-teachers out there who are the last people on earth I’d want near the controls of our education system. There are university education lecturers who won’t admit they are not still teachers; consultants who get hundreds or even thousands of pounds for half a day’s work but still say they are in the job for the kids, and headteachers who will not even admit there are differences between their perspective and interests and those of the people they manage. These might be ex-teachers, but the difference between their world and mine is enormous. The difference between them and somebody who was never a teacher, is that the latter won’t claim to speak for teachers.
Finally, there are positive reasons for wanting Amanda Spielman to be in the most powerful position in education in England. If you are a blogger who has blogged (sensibly) about qualifications while she has been in charge of Ofqual, she’s probably been in touch with you. She listens to teachers and asks how they have been affected by her work. Her record of achievement with Ofqual has been impressive. She has helped make Ofqual evidence-based, transparent and coherent in its approach. If you want somebody with a proven record of reforming a large public bureaucracy in order to make it fair and reliable, there is no person better qualified. She has also done this without seeking any publicity for herself. It is highly unlikely she sees the job as one of telling teachers what to do and making pronouncements to the press. If anyone can ensure that OFSTED that does its job: dealing with the unacceptable without creating uncertainty for everyone in the system, it’s her. Her appointment was the best education news I’ve heard in years.