Ofsted chief slams local councils for not reporting failing schools

The chief inspector has told MPs that he believes local authorities still have a role in holding schools to account

Social Affairs Correspondent

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, lambasted local authorities today for their “worrying” failure to keep tabs on poorly performing schools.

“The problem is far too few of you are [raising concerns about schools with the Government or Ofsted],” Sir Michael said. “My postbag is not exactly bulging with letters from concerned directors of children’s services imploring Ofsted to go in and inspect a poorly performing school within their boundaries.”

Speaking at a conference in Manchester for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), he said: “Your responsibilities are still enshrined in statute and they haven’t, as far as I’m aware, gone away. The question is are you taking those responsibilities seriously and are you stepping up to the plate, or have you already thrown in the towel on your duties to improve schools in your areas? I have to say that the evidence is, at best, mixed and this is worrying.”

Sir Michael’s warning follows evidence he gave to MPs this week that the so-called Trojan Horse schools in Birmingham were “vulnerable to extremism”.

The chief inspector has told MPs that he believes local authorities still have a role in holding schools to account, despite government pressure to reduce their powers. But he said that councils were in the “last chance saloon” if they wanted that role to have any significance, telling leaders of children’s services: “Your concern should be that if you do not use your powers wisely, all of the political pressure to curtail your role further will only increase.”

In an at-times hectoring speech that drew peeved looks from his audience, he said that Westminster increasingly saw councils’ typical response to education problems as “sluggish and half-hearted”.

“Councils are seen by many Westminster politicians as part of the problem and not the solution to creating a world-class education system,” he said. “At best, they perceive the type of sluggish and half-hearted response of local authorities to emerging problems that we’ve seen and reported on in Birmingham as all too typical. At worst they suspect some councils are actively colluding with those who have an interest in resisting change. That may well be outdated or downright unfair but it’s a perception you need to acknowledge and overturn – and quickly.”

Speaking about local authorities being increasingly edged out of education, he said: “How has it come to this? Historically the track record of local authorities in education has been patchy and in some cases poor.”

“Times have changed and many of the worst practices and excesses we witnessed back then are no more, but I’m afraid we haven’t exorcised all those ghosts of the past. Many councils, for instance, are adept at responding to problems but fail to anticipate them. They know what a failing school is but have real difficulty in recognising what makes a really outstanding one.”

Alan Wood, president of ADCS and director of children’s services for Hackney, told The Independent: “I don’t agree with him that local authorities don’t have a track record in education but I do agree with him that we’re not collectively doing enough now to show how we make a difference in education. And I think we have perhaps allowed structural changes and statutory changes to edge us out of our creative and innovative role in education.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
arts + ents
Life and Style
tech

Sites using the popular Gigya comment platform were attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)

Extras
indybest
News
people
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

h2 Recruit Ltd: New Business Sales Manager - Talent Management - £60,000 OTE

£35000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A true market leader in ...

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Maths Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: We are currently recruiting f...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?