Angry heads force U-turn on school inspections

Michael Gove signals that Ofsted plans for 'no-notice' visits will be dropped

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, yesterday signalled a U-turn over plans for "no-notice" inspections of schools after an outcry from headteachers. He gave the clearest indication yet that they would be dropped when Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, announces its reforms to the school inspection system later this summer.

Speaking to the National Association of Head Teachers' (NAHT) annual conference in Harrogate, he acknowledged that the proposal had given rise to serious worries. "The particular concern is not that the majority of headteachers feel they're going to be found out," he said, "but it sends a message that we don't trust the profession, that Ofsted has become an arm of the Spanish Inquisition or Sean Connery's Untouchables, that they have to be ready to storm in when something has gone drastically wrong.

"That was never the intention," he added. He said that, when the chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, announced his final package of reforms, "I think it will be clear that we have listened to what people thought".

Heads, he said, "deserve to have the chance to know when an inspection is coming and to be there and to greet the inspectors and present the best face of the school." At present, they have 48 hours' notice of inspections. The new rules would mean that this period was shortened to the previous day.

The apparent U-turn was welcomed by Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, as "better than nothing".

Mr Gove's move was one of a series of olive branches offered to heads over the planned new inspection regime, which they had earlier claimed was leading to a "culture of intimidation" in schools. Heads also complained about the standard of inspections, saying some inspection teams were of poor quality.

Before Mr Gove's speech yesterday, Steve Iredale, president of the NAHT, spoke at the conference, saying he had likened one inspection team to "badly trained monkeys". He added that he had received a complaint from a local zoo-keeper that his monkeys were highly offended.

Mr Gove, who was given a lukewarm reception, with limited applause for his speech from conference delegates, said he was considering whether to increase the pay for inspectors from its present level of £65,000 a year to ensure Ofsted attracted the best talent available.

"There can be no better use of public money than making sure our inspection system is working as effectively as possible," he said.

Earlier Mr Iredale had introduced him by saying: "Morale in the profession is pretty low. In 21 years in headship, I've known tough times but this takes the biscuit."

In his speech, he accused ministers of playing "Russian roulette" with children's lives as a result of the stream of initiatives swamping schools. "Their vision for the future of all children is very often based on their own experience, the myths of a golden past, a very different time," he said.

"Schools and children's learning must be built on the here and now and the future, not on the nostalgia of the Fifties, Sixties or Seventies."

He added: "Is it not time for governments to see the bigger picture and work towards the greater good for all children and the future economic success of our country rather than playing Russian roulette with their lives? You do have to ask, does political meddling really have a place in our children's learning." He said that the one policy he would like his association to pursue was to ban smoking because he was "fed up to the back teeth with policies which are clearly created on the back of a fag packet", adding: "No smoking – no fag packets – no flawed policies. Simple."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at home yesterday
people
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Infrastructure Engineer

£28000 - £34000 per annum + excellent bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: In...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: PSHE Teacher required in Devon - Star...

SEN PPA Cover Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Teacher Jobs in Devon Devon

BSL Level 2 or above - Behaviour Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are looking for Teaching ...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor