Going home at 3pm..

Michael Wilshaw has weighed in again with another media friendly pronouncement on teaching (http://bbc.in/OQ80vk). In a move which has sparked a predictable backlash from teaching unions, Wilshaw the head of OfSTED and the most senior teacher in the land, outlined how teachers who did not teach well, or who left early (at 3pm was the cut off he used), should not be entitled to pay rises. An excellent analysis of Wilshaw’s strategy when he talks to the media can be found on Chips of Brookfields Blog (http://bit.ly/P9lG5Z) and Bansi Kara has written with insight and precision about why Wilshaw’s strategy ignores the reality of what happens in school and the basics of how you motivate people (http://bit.ly/TiuSLy).

At one level this is just another piece of populist grand-standing from Wilshaw, an interview with theTimes destined to please the Daily Mail readership and setting up Gove nicely for his conference speech to the Tories in a week’s time.  Ignoring it is probably the best strategy.  But the image Wilshaw paints of lazy teachers driving out of the school car park at 3pm is calculated to raise the hackles of anyone who thinks teachers work too short hours, have long holidays and an all round cushy number, and can increase the antagonism between the teaching profession and the wider public.  Gove has been waging a war on state education since he became shadow secretary for education, and Wilshaw’s interview seems peppered with sound bites which could have come straight from Gove’s mouth, which they may well have done!

Wilshaw clearly shares his politics and views on teaching with Gove and as the months go by the partisan nature of this appointment appears ever more striking.  Michaels Gove and Wilshaw (and wannabe ‘Michael’ Nick Gibb) all appear to have had the same lobotomy: a surgical operation to remove their creativity, imagination and ability to base their policies and pronouncements on facts and data, and a replacement of the resulting void with a fetid stew of authoritarian myopia and half-arsed sentiments from Rudyard Kipling.  That the most senior politicians and leaders of education in this country can be so lacking in real insights in how to improve education and so bereft of meaningful policies is a national tragedy.

Wilshaw’s explanation that his inspectors will mark down schools which give pay rises to teaching staff without justification is not only unworkable, it also contradicts the essence of Gove’s reforms to state education.  Gove has put all of his political eggs in the basket of academies and free schools*, and central to this policy is the right for academies to set their own pay and conditions for staff, even employing teachers without qualifications if they want to. So Gove’s policy seems to trust absolutely management of a school to promote those worthy teachers and reward performance accordingly, and Gove is eager to brandish the word ‘autonomy’ whenever he is championing his academy policy. But then Wilshaw comes along and contradicts this. Is he seriously saying that his inspectors are going to inspect a school and then drill down to the level of detail where they ask the Senior Management to justify the salary of individual teachers and mark them down if this justification does not satisfy them.  This is of course will be impossible and even if it were, this will be a government agency intervening right at the heart of a school’s management and staffing structure.

Michael Gove cannot have his autonomous cake and eat it.  His talk is all of autonomy and letting schools run themselves without let or hindrance by the local authority, but his actions and policies very clearly point to exactly the opposite situation, the micro-management of schools by proxy by OfSTED.  His policies are confused and contradictory and in Wilshaw he has found an unquestioning attack dog to further his agenda.  The sooner both Michaels are removed to a position where they can no longer influence English schools the better.


*in terms of legal status, free schools and academies are the same thing. Free schools are just academies which are far more likely to be run by religious extremists or Tory journalists than regular academies.

Image is creative commons, available here and used with kind permission of Goat’s Greetings on Flickr. Original image has been cropped.

Author: mjp6034

Education consultant specialising in educational technology and change management.

3 thoughts on “Going home at 3pm..”

  1. I have just emailed Wilshaw (actually, the office which insulates him from reality) for the 2nd time, to apologise for accusing him in the 1st one of being out to get the teaching unions ……………….It’s clearly the individual teachers he wants to hurt. I can only guess it’s their politcs (as he imagines them) that he so wants to punish them for

    One defninition of a bully is someone who has power to make you conform to standards he just laughs at. He clearly enjoys the role of privateer, which is what the tories brought him in for. Unfortunately, the world has moved on, and the cosy class ridden society (and therefore, educational system) which produced spiritually and intellectually sterilised apparatchiks to run the empire is out of date. To stay afloat, the counrty needs talent from every quarter – but perhaps the tories actuaully WANT this country to sink. This would be consistent with pissing off good teachers.

    One by one, the so called leaders of scoiety have shown themselves to be without morals of any knind. You don’t have to be religious to beleive in the rule of law and individual resonsibility. Whatever your deep belief, we, the ordinary people, are going to have to stand up to amoralism such as we see at the top of education and eslewhere, and act properly. The establishment may then learn how to do it.

    1. Well it may be a ‘better analysis’; but that would be your opinion wouldn’t it?

      I read the particular piece you link to this in this comment, and despite some nice sounding noises about being even-handed in analysing the Wilshaw speech, I found it every bit as as partisan as mine, just in support of Wilshaw rather than against him. The piece, though entertaining, relied completely on the a gut feeling of support from the author for Wilshaw. Bennett (along with yourself I imagine) clearly likes Wilshaw’s authoritarian style and his challenging of teachers. I enjoyed the post (reading it when it came out, so your link here was not needed), and although I disagree broadly with many of the points, I could see some validity in the points being made.

      What you have not done in your comment, and what is not addressed in the post you have linked, is the points I made about the tension between granting schools autonomy and then having an inspectorate which micro manages who they reward and measure their staff. This is a serious debate about the management of schools where Gove has consistently said that he wants schools to have autonomy, and where he has consistently worked to deny that autonomy and install structures of authoritarian control. So don’t come on my blog and criticise what I’ve written until you have a better worked out answer to that important issue.

      If you want to be a cheerleader for Wilshaw because this authoritarian style mirrors your own beliefs about how schools should be run and how teachers respected, then fill your boots.

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