‘I blame the parents,’ says chief schools inspector

Teachers say they must counter the ‘quick fix’idea of The X Factor and similar programmes

Lax parenting and a celebrity-driven culture of instant gratification is forcing schools to act as "surrogate parents" for many pupils, the Chief Inspector of Schools has said. Sir Michael Wilshaw said many teachers were being asked to "make up for much wider failings within families" to ensure that their students knuckled down to academic work.

"I have often said that schools in the most difficult circumstances have no option but to be surrogate parents so that children can achieve and I don't retreat from that position," Sir Michael, pictured left, told the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) in Birmingham.

"A culture which is sometimes self-obsessed and puts such emphasis on celebrity and self-gratification doesn't ... foster in our young people the essential virtues of effort and diligence which are so fundamental to our success at schools and colleges," he added.

"Our youngsters are too often exposed to double standards – where bad behaviour and violence are publicly condemned but endlessly available as entertainment. As a result, schools are too often asked to make up for much wider failings within families and communities. Too often, children grow up without the family, cultural and community values they need to thrive."

Sir Michael urged schools to "step into the vacuum and make a difference – even if this means being unfashionable, counter-cultural and setting good examples where few exist at home".

Headteachers supported his call for schools to combat a growing emphasis on instant gratification. They highlighted TV shows like The X Factor, which they said convinced children that it was possible to immediately succeed without doing any work.

Joan McVittie, president of the ASCL and headteacher of Woodside High School in north London, said: "Many young people learn their values in school. Sadly some of their parents are unable to provide guidance and often the values provided by their peer groups take precedence over everything else."

She added that instilling moral values in pupils was "perhaps the most important part of our job", as TV talent shows suggested a "quick fix" was all that was needed to be successful.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the ASCL, also criticised TV soaps for constantly showing people shouting at each other: "Children are faced with a lot of difficult role models these days – not all of which are the most positive. They see examples of celebrity culture on TV with people not speaking the right way and not communicating in a way we would expect people to." He continued: "In many ways schools are the last bastions of these traditional values. We do assert old-fashioned standards and discipline because we see it as our job to teach children in that way."

However, Sir Michael faced criticism from headteachers over the tough stance he has taken on raising standards since he took office 10 weeks ago. He has called for an end to describing schools as "satisfactory" by Ofsted, arguing that "requires improvement" is a better term.

He also wants to see inspectors going straight into classrooms after unexpectedly arriving in schools. Weak heads, he has argued, should face the sack. "I'm not going to say here that everything is wonderful in the garden – because it isn't," he said.

Graham Betts, a headteacher from Leicestershire, warned him of the "corrosive effect" of constant negative statements on education.

Sir Michael said he had taken such a tough stance because he didn't "want to read the same chief inspectors' report that I've seen for the past 10 years – that there is under-performance and mediocrity". He added: "It is quite unacceptable that schools can remain in that satisfactory grade for two inspections – that's six or seven years that children are receiving an education that is less than good."

Earlier, the ASCL produced figures showing that record numbers of heads and senior leaders had been sacked last year as pressure grew to improve exam results. As a result, fewer and fewer deputy heads were willing to step up and seek headships.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Reach Volunteering: External HR Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot