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.