Teachers to demand resignation of chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw over 'stream of negative and inaccurate comments'
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Friday 22 March 2013
Teachers will demand the resignation of chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw after what they claim have been "a stream of negative and inaccurate comments" about their performance in the classroom.
The demand will be made at the National Union of Teachers' annual conference next weekend when delegates will also debate a motion calling for a boycott of school inspections by education standards watchdog Ofsted.
They are incensed over changes to school inspections - which have seen schools previously rated as "satisfactory" now being told they "require improvement" and "are not a good school".
As a result, the schools can be forced to become academies with the head being sacked and new sponsors appointed to run the school.
In addition, schools can be given less than a day's notice of the inspection team's intention to visit them.
"There will be heads who go into work on a Monday and are told there will be an inspection on the Wednesday and by the next Monday they will be out of the door," said Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT.
In addition, classroom teachers "will be at their GPs saying 'I can't take this any more'" after a classroom inspection, she added.
Comments made by Sir Michael include one speech in which he took aim at teachers who "make excuses for poor performance by claiming their jobs were "far too stressful".
"Let me tell you about stress," he added. "Stress is what my father felt, who struggled to find a job in the Fifties and Sixties and who often had to work long hours in three different jobs and at weekends to support a growing family.
"Stress is what I was under when I started as a head in 1985 in the context of widespread industrial action Teachers walking out of class at a moment's notice, doing lunch duty on my own every day for three years because of colleagues who worked to rule, covering five classes in ths sports hall when there was no-one to teach them."
Next week's conference is expected to back both the call for Sir Michael's resignation and the call for a boycott - although Ms Blower pointed it would be a "criminal offence" to refuse to co-operate with an Ofsted inspection.
"We will continue to investigate whether there are ways of boycotting inspections," she added. "However, simply declaring a boycott we don't think is a workable strategy."
Instead, the union will support teachers who refuse to take part in mock inspections in schools to prepare themselves for the real thing.
Many schools hire real-life Ofsted inspectors who "tout" themselves around to schools and deliver mock inspection verdicts, Ms Blower added. She said the practice was "probably increasing in schools who think themselves more vulnerable to Ofsted inspection".
She said the mock inspectors might sometimes be local authority advisers but added: "Ofsted people who are registered and do get some of their income from doing inspections do tout themselves around to schools.
"We don't like the practice inspection system because we don't like the inspection system. It is highly stressed, not very useful and a top down system. The practice system is just the same. It is completely unnecessary."
Ms Blower said the union favoured a schools self-evaluation system - with a light touvch moderation from the outside to check that schools were accurate in their own assessments.
Sir Michael has claimed that some of his comments have been "taken out of context".
A spokeswoman for Ofsted added: "It is for heads, school leaders and governors to decide whether they want to commission an additional inspector to give advice on how a school should improve.
"Ofsted's first priority is to report on whether schools are providing children and young people with the quality of education they deserve,. Since September 2012, we have inspected schools with very little notice which we believe helps minimise the pressure on teachers.
"Under Ofsted's new regional structure, Her Majesty's Inspectors are now monitoring, challenging and supporting educational institutions which are not meeting the required standard and are remaining with them until they get to good."
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