Education & Family

Heads attack chief inspector's 'bully boy tactics'

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

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.

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.

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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