The row between right-wing think-tanks and senior figures at the schools watchdog is billed as a vivid spat between Michael Gove and his Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw.
I would be very surprised if Gove was directly involved in the attack on Ofsted. There is, or was, considerable mutual respect between him and Wilshaw. But the row sheds much light on the ideological direction of some who are close to the top of the Conservative Party.
Influential right-wingers are angry that Ofsted is critical of a few academies and free schools. They call for a new regime of inspection for these favoured institutions. No wonder Wilshaw is “spitting blood”. While supportive of academies and free schools he demands universal high standards.
In today’s anarchic fractured arrangements, where so much relies on the qualities and integrity of individual headteachers and often inexperienced administrators, Wilshaw and his team are more essential than they were before in holding all schools to account.
This poses a threat to those that yearn for a free market in schools and who are opposed to the state upholding high standards or determining what form those standards should take.
It was a Conservative government that quite rightly introduced a national curriculum and Ofsted. Now, some on the right appear to oppose any central direction. Gove represents both strands.
He is both prescriptive and an advocate of letting a thousand flowers bloom or rot. He should maintain his alliance with the excellent Wilshaw or else more will rot rather than bloom.
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