Education & Family

Wilshaw warns staffroom 'moaners'

Sir Michael Wilshaw
Image caption Sir Michael criticised those who portrayed teachers as "victims" with little control of their lives

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw says that teachers should stop presenting themselves as "victims".

The head of the education watchdog warned it undermined the profession if teachers were seen as "serial complainers with another moan".

Sir Michael called for improvements in how teachers were trained for the "rigours of the classroom".

He said it was a "national scandal" that 40% of teachers left within their first five years.

Sir Michael, addressing the North of England Education Conference in Nottingham, said the quality of graduates entering teaching and the standard of training were vital keys to raising school standards.

Pupil behaviour

He announced a review of how inspectors judge training providers, so that fewer teachers would be unprepared for the classroom, particularly in tackling badly-behaved pupils.

And he called for more support in schools for newly-qualified teachers to prevent so many leaving the profession.

"It is a national scandal that we invest so much in teacher training and yet an estimated 40% of new entrants leave within five years," he told the conference.

He said that the "disconnect" between the theory of teacher training and its practice in the classroom had "bedevilled the education system for far too long".

"Ofsted has not been as demanding as it should have been with training providers who have sent newly qualified teachers out into schools unprepared for the rigours of the classroom," he said.

Sir Michael, who in the past has drawn much criticism from teachers’ unions, also warned that teachers’ representatives should not portray themselves as "victims who have little control or say over their own professional lives".

He said such an approach risked "infantilising the profession".

The Ofsted chief said that the quality of teaching was improving.

"We have never had a more motivated, more qualified, more enthused generation of young teachers than we have now," he said.

Matching teachers

But he warned that there was a serious problem in how the best teachers were not available for schools in the parts of England with the greatest need.

He called for a "national system" to ensure that weak schools could have access to the strongest teachers.

"We cannot have a polarised system in which the best schools monopolise the best teachers, leaving struggling schools to fight over the weakest candidates.

"This risks locking these schools into a spiral of decline, unable to tap into the talent they urgently need."

Sir Michael called on teachers to "refuse to be cowed, refuse to be victims" and to recognise that "there has never been a better time to be a teacher".

'Under a microscope'

But he was challenged on this by conference delegate, Matt O’Leary from the University of Wolverhampton, who said teachers would not recognise this description.

He argued that many young teachers were leaving the profession because they felt that Ofsted was putting them "under a microscope".

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said: "One of the biggest offenders for not celebrating teachers and the profession is Ofsted‎.

"Teaching unions merely represent teachers' views and concerns - we do not invent them.

"One of those views is that Ofsted is driving many good teachers out of the profession through their unnecessarily punitive inspection system and their continual criticism of teachers."

Sir Michael was also asked how universities could improve the quality of teacher training when there was such uncertainty about the future of teacher training in higher education – when the government has been shifting the emphasis towards more schools-based training.

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