The National Association of Headteachers has made it clear it has no confidence in Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, appointed at the beginning of this year. The National Union of Teachers even wants to lock Ofsted inspectors out of classrooms. Headteachers accuse Wilshaw of "bully-boy tactics" and of demoralising the profession. In part this is because of new policy, like changing the "satisfactory" judgment to "requires improvement", which triggers further and more frequent inspections. But it isn't just structural threats that have angered teachers. Wilshaw's own words leave a bitter taste.
Sir Michael says that teachers don't know the meaning of the word "stress". Teachers need to "roll up their sleeves and get on with improving their schools," he says. "What we don't need are leaders . . . whose first recourse is to blame someone else — whether it's Ofsted, the local education authority, the government or a whole host of other people."
I don't agree with Wilshaw. First, I think that some teachers in some schools have such stressful jobs that it is a wonder they don't all get treated for mental breakdowns. Only some of them do. But let's put that aside. The real issue is who or what is to blame for the battlefield that is the reality in some of our schools, and the sea of mediocrity in which so many others are floating. Is it just poor teachers who don't know the meaning of stress and poor leaders who like to blame everyone else for their own failings? Or is it more complicated?
While Wilshaw is correct to say we need leaders who are willing to get their hands dirty, the constant elephant in the room is Ofsted and whether it helps or hinders this process. The public presumes that Ofsted inspectors are able to recognise good teaching, and can therefore reward good schools with a badge of "outstanding" and rightfully shame bad teachers with a badge of "inadequate". But what happens when the inspectorate upon which parents depend doesn't just have low standards but fundamentally misunderstands what good teaching is?