Nicky Morgan, the education secretary, is “delighted” with the appointment of David Hoare as the new chairman of Ofsted. “He is”, she tells us, “passionate about education and his work with academies across the country shows he shares my commitment to ever higher standards in our schools, for all children but particularly the most disadvantaged.”
I sincerely hope that she will not be disappointed and it would be churlish in the extreme not to wish him well. I fear, however, that placing too many expectations on his shoulders will be misplaced. He has been handed a poisoned chalice and the vultures are circling.
Although Hoare does not have any political affiliations, the National Union of Teachers has, already, described his appointment as a “politicisation of school inspection”. Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, has weighed in by declaring that the “filling” of posts “with the Tories’ nearest and dearest is not acceptable.” He seems to forgotten that Hoare’s predecessor, former geography teacher Sally Morgan, had close links to Labour and that she advised Tony Blair in Downing Street.
What should we expect from the new Ofsted chairman? Sadly, the answer is, “very little’. The education secretary claims that David Hoare and Sir Michael Wilshaw [the chief inspector] “will make a superb team.” In truth, there is little to get too excited about. Their job will be to manage ‘retreat’ in the face of defeat by the educational establishment. With Michael Gove now toppled and a general election around the corner, the best that Ofsted and, indeed, the Government, can hope for is a negotiated surrender.
Michael Wilshaw already has union votes of ‘no confidence’ hanging over him. He is something of a ‘spent force’. A reading of the minutes of Ofsted board meetings in recent years demonstrates that he is drifting apart from the mainstream Ofsted and educational culture. At a board meeting in March this year it is recorded that the Chief Inspector “reflected on his recent message to inspectors about not prescribing particular styles of teaching.”
This was a recognition that Ofsted inspectors continue to promote ineffective and inefficient ‘child-centred’ teaching methods as “good practice”. Published research by both Daisy Christodoulou and by Robert Peal has clearly demonstrated that lessons rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted are invariably ‘child-centred’. ‘Whole-class’ teaching, at the core of many of the best education systems in the world, is frowned upon by inspectors in this country and associated with “unsatisfactory” lesson ratings. Wilshaw’s plea is falling on deaf ears. Minutes of several Ofsted board meeting refer routinely to “best practice” or to ‘good practice’. None of the board members, it seems, have felt any need to challenge this culture. Instead, at a time of crisis in education, the only record of disagreement was over the use of a word considered to be sexist:
“The Chair reported that the Strategic Plan had been reviewed, simplified and updated and the Departmental Plan had been similarly updated. The Board agreed the changes, subject to ‘Chairman’ being amended to ‘Chair’. “ (May 2011)
It is into a politically correct, complacent and self-congratulatory educational establishment that David Hoare has descended at Ofsted. He needs to change the culture. Good luck!