Heads attack chief inspector's 'bully boy tactics'

Sir Michael Wilshaw Head teachers at an annual conference have criticised Ofsted chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw

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Head teachers have accused England's chief inspector of schools of "bully boy tactics" against their profession.

The National Association of Head Teachers said it would have expected more from Sir Michael Wilshaw, a former head himself.

The NAHT said it was "both saddened and dismayed" by Sir Michael's "negative rhetoric" and said his support was needed to help teachers and pupils.

Ofsted said the intention was to work closely with good heads.

Oxfordshire head teacher Mike Curtis proposed a motion at the NAHT conference in Harrogate saying the conference was "saddened and dismayed" by the approach taken by Mr Wilshaw.

Start Quote

We must stand up to the bully-boy tactics of Michael Wilshaw”

End Quote Mike Curtis Oxfordshire head

Introducing the motion, he said: "Can we really put our trust in Her Majesty's Chief Inspector? I suggest not.

"Successful careers are damaged or destroyed on a daily basis as more schools are put into categories.

"Fear reigns and confidence wanes as Ofsted waves its stick. We must stand up to the bully-boy tactics of Michael Wilshaw.

"We need to send a strong message to Michael Wilshaw to say that we have had enough.

"We deplore his negative rhetoric which is demoralising our members and is creating a climate of fear in schools."

Strained relations

On Saturday, delegates put forward a late motion for discussion which called for a vote of no confidence in the chief inspector.

However, after debate, the NAHT decided the wording of it was too strong and amounted to the same sort of bullying rhetoric they were criticising.

Start Quote

We are saddened by Sir Michael, especially as he was a head once”

End Quote Bernadette Hunter NAHT vice-president

Overnight, the association drew up a new motion which was put before members on Sunday morning.

The NAHT voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new motion, with 98.9% voting yes.

The motion represents a further straining of relationships between the NAHT and Ofsted, coming just days after the association raised concerns about the quality and impartiality of school inspections.

A poll of over 2,000 school leaders, conducted by the union, found almost half (45.3%) believed Ofsted made no contribution to, or actively prevented, standards being raised.

Nine in 10 (89.9%) were either unhappy or very unhappy about the tone and content of recent announcements by the watchdog.

Ofsted has recently announced plans - that are currently out for consultation -, to introduce no-notice inspections for all schools and to scrap the "satisfactory" rating and replace it with "requires improvement".

'Intolerable stress'

Vice-president of the NAHT and Staffordshire primary school head teacher Bernadette Hunter said Ofsted was putting an "intolerable amount of stress" on heads.

Ms Hunter said the "horrible rhetoric" from the schools watchdog was putting people off becoming head teachers.

"We are saddened by Sir Michael, especially as he was a head once."

A spokeswoman for Ofsted said: "Ofsted has been listening to the views of head teachers, teacher and parents about its proposed changes to school inspections and will announce the results of its consultation at the end of the month.

"The intention is to work closely with good heads as they drive improvement in their schools."

Inspection U-turn

The debate comes despite Education Secretary Michael Gove signalling a U-turn over Sir Michael's plans for no-notice inspections of schools from September.

Addressing the conference on Saturday morning, Mr Gove said the proposals were likely to be dropped.

The plans, announced by Sir Michael in January, caused anger among head teachers, who currently receive 48 hours' notice.

The NAHT welcomed Mr Gove's speech, saying heads had a right to make sure they were on site for inspections.

Sir Michael took up his post in January. He was previously executive head of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, east London.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Less of the box ticking, guidelines, etc. is definitely a good shout. Children are all so different, and learn in many different ways, it should be left to the teachers to explore this and develop methods that produce good results. And those good results can range from pupils producing work for themselves using brilliant interpersonal skills or creativity.... it shouldn't be all about the grades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.


    Nice to see plenty of experts on education here....

    Shame that most of them haven't taught a lesson, worked anywhere near a school, yet see fit to make sweeping generalisations about something they know little about

    You're talking about the teachers, right?!


  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    All teachers can do is whine and complain. They are overpaid and have too many holidays. The sooner that teachers salaries can be brought down to more realistic levels, the better. We are all in this together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    After 22 years working in British schools, I transferred to a state secondary school in the Netherlands. No uniform. I wear trainers and jeans. I have classes of 32. Yet the students work hard and are eager to learn. I maintain high standards of discipline.
    British schools concentrate on fripperies - no evidence whatever that uniform improves anything and yet so much effort is invested in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    . I have seen a lot of comments here about how only 17 teachers have been sacked in 10 years, as if we should be sacking more teachers. If a teachers is not up to standard then they should receive help to improve, not just be tossed away. I also feel teachers get the blame to much for bad results, Some pupils just dont want to learn. What do you want them to do? Progress is good, Just be realistic

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Yes I can't help but agree with you. When you experience the intelligence, order, manners and discipline of the chldren in India and China it makes one tremble for the future of the UK and some countries in Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Having worked in secondry education i have seen 1st hand how schools tip each other off about inspections and how staff prepare for the coming inspection, hastily putting into place evidence of systems they had not used whilst unobserved. This is largley i feel why some inspecions fail, teachers carrying out lessons in a format that only happens when the inspectors are in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I work in an early years setting. While my child's school gets 48 hours (longer if there is a weekend inbetween) notice of an inspection, we get none. We can open the door and there is the inspector. I am judged against the same standards as the reception class teacher, but don't have time to make sure everything is perfect on the day for my "performance" Fair?

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Sadly in the mainstream of schools "teaching" is mainly crowd control of unruly pupils who hinder the education of pupils who actually want to learn. Pupil discipline is a joke as the perpetrators know teachers have little in their armory to affect them. In this climate, how can school inspections effectively take place as teachers are unable to "teach" due to contant disruption

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Kids now are used to getting what they want by 'flinging'. Parents don't have the power to stop them and they should. Also, if kids were guaranteed jobs or training at the end of school, at least till age 25, that would do a lot. You're just going to get a society people where people who want to learn, have an 'unfair advantage'. We are already 1/2 way there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    There does need to be improved quality control with Ofsted inspections, as I've noticed that some school Ofsted reports are too positive about some mediocre schools whereas I've also noticed that they don't seem to have given some excellent schools the outstanding label despite the school having excellent teaching . Some Ofsted inspection reports seem to be wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.


    "If real discipline was imposed in the classroom, teachers would have a much easier job."

    Discipline in the classroom merely reflects discipline in place in wider society. Schools reflect the norms of the day. Parents and kids would 'kick off' if teachers stepped up the discipline.

    Children lacking discipline are rather too prevalent (but not the majority).

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    I have friends who are very talented and dedicated teachers. They are quitting, off on stress leave, or thinking of leaving. If good teachers can't hack this system, then who will be left. We know retention of teachers is a serious problem, yet there is continued insistence on making their lives a misery. I am fearful of what will be in store for my child when he starts school in the next 3 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Contention between Ofsted, schools, teachers, heads is enough to say something is very wrong. The bureaucracy needed to support a large administration doesn't help. Perhaps the answer is to return to methods practiced for millennia until the early 1960s, smaller schools run by a head + a secretary and that's all. Have comprehensives been successful?

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    School inspectors before OFSTED were better placed to detect bad teachers. ie They advised and mentored struggling teachers and when they had been given a chance to improve unsuitable ones were advised to leave. They often disappeared into private education or educatio administration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    If real discipline was imposed in the classroom, teachers would have a much easier job. Basically, the liberal "all must have prizes" and "self expression" philosophies espoused by many teachers have led to them making a rod for their own back. In the East there is real discipline and teachers are highly respected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    What a sensitive bunch teachers are. There is only one reason to fear 'no notice inspections' and that is because they will expose inefficiency amongst teachers. It should be fairly obvious by now, even to teachers, that the finished product ie ex-pupils who are literate and fit to face the world, is not too good and needs improvement. .

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Head teachers see schools as petit fiefdoms with little or no recourse for parents. Governing bodies and chairs are often scared of H-Ts. H-Ts especially need to remember whose money they are spending. Ambitious, young H-Ts are the most dangerous with little personal experience driven by desperate Education Authorities. Reform H-Ts, their powers and accountability for the safety of our children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    If you don't say no to kids at times, you're just going to create people who resent people who can do things they can't and feel they have every right to stop them doing it, in adult life too, and even in their private life. And, it will become an open resentment, too and the authorities will back them up. It's already happened.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I'm a parent of school age children. I think that Michael Wilshaw is generally a force for good. He seems to want schools to improve rather than wallow in self-satisfied complacency. All headteachers should be looking into how their schools could improve. It seems to me that the schools that have most of the answers are very successful schools in deprived or semi-deprived areas.


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