Chalk Talk: An inspector calls – but not everyone will be very pleased to see him


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The Independent Online

I always like to see a touch of optimism in the face of what is perceived to be adversity.

Most of the teacher union reaction to the succession by Sir Michael Wilshaw, the successful head of Hackney's Mossbourne school, to the post of chief schools inspector has been hostile.

He has not endeared himself to them with talk of refusing teachers pay rises unless they shine in the classroom, abolishing the notion of "satisfactory" schools and replacing them with schools that "require improvement" and bringing in his own adaptation of An Inspector Calls by announcing that in future his teams could be turning up any time and anywhere.

However, one union, Voice, sees a smidgen of optimism in his modelling himself on Clint Eastwood and, in particular, his "Dirty Harry" character.

"Dirty Harry ultimately follows his own path, disobeying his political paymasters," the union said.

Evidence, therefore, of a truly independent chief inspector of schools?

While on the subject of Sir Michael, though, the new chief inspector recalled a poignant moment during his last day at school before taking up his post when he addressed the Royal Society of Art last week.

A Year Seven pupil (11- or 12-year-old to you and me) asked him why he was leaving the school to join "Off head".

"Ofsted," corrected Sir Michael. "No, Off head," insisted the boy.

Maybe he knew a little bit more about Sir Michael's ruthless tendencies than the man himself?

Meanwhile, nuclear war almost broke out when Professor Les Ebdon, vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University, who is the Coalition's choice to take over as head of the Office for Fair Access – the university admissions watchdog, went before MPs for his pre-appointment hearing.

He would not be afraid, he said, to use the "nuclear option" against members of the Russell Group if they failed to meet targets to widen participation. That would mean forcing them to reduce their fees.

In their turn, the MPs were hardly bashful in using it against him – with one telling him he had no track record of business acumen, adding: "and that concerns me immensely."