On 1st January 2012 Michael Wilshaw took up the role as head of OFSTED for 5 years, meaning that Nicky Morgan as current education minister has been faced with the challenging task of finding his successor. Sir Michael had been a teacher all of his working life prior to his appointment and bearing in mind that OFSTED is primarily a regulator of our Schools, this was a good fit. However as the Government website states “Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. We inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. Ofsted is a non-ministerial department.” Although it is not mentioned in that text, OFSTED are also responsible for regulating the care, training and teaching which goes on in prisons for those up to the age of 25.
In the five years from 1st January 2017 – 31st December 2021 the next head of OFSTED will have a number of challenges to deal with. The Government has declared its desire to see all Schools become Academies by 2022 and whilst they have rowed back from their original demand that Schools would be forced to change, that is still their strategy. This means that the head of OFSTED will be working with a diminishing number of non Academy Schools, some of which are very strongly opposed to the Academisation programme. However the challenges elsewhere will also be significant as the Ministry of Justice raises the profile and increases the focus of teaching and training in prisons and youth offending institutions. The diminishing funds for training and teaching due to the austerity measures are also placing pressures on local government as it attempts to square a difficult circle. Finally the issues of preventing child abuse which OFSTED are also involved in mean that Sir Michaels successor will need to be capable of working in a number of diverse areas. As a school teacher with experience in a number of Schools, whilst there are no reasons why Sir Michael would have necessarily visited a prison or taken part in a multi agency group to deal with child abuse accusations, he would certainly have been aware of such things. As a School teacher he might not have been involved directly in further education provision, but he would have assisted some of the older children to consider that as way forward.
Nicky Morgan has made her choice. Announcing the selection, Ms Morgan said: “I am delighted to recommend Amanda Spielman as chief inspector. “From helping to set up one of the country’s top academy chains, to acting as a council member for the Institute of Education, to overseeing our ambitious qualification reform programme, Amanda has extensive experience at the front line of the education system, making her uniquely qualified to take up this important role. I know that she is the right person to deliver the Education White Paper’s commitment to continue to improve the quality and consistency of Ofsted’s inspections, ensuring that it plays a central role in realising our vision of educational excellence everywhere.” What Nicky did not mention is that Amanda began her working life working in investment strategy and finance at Kleinwort Benson and elsewhere from 1997-2001. To her credit she has gained an MA in comparative education from the Institute of Education, University of London. She then went on to work as research and development director for Ark schools (Absolute Return for Kids) from 2004 to 2011 before becoming chair of Ofqual. Along with her role for the examination regulator she became adviser to Ark’s international arm, a role she maintained until January 2016. A number of teachers networks have expressed concern that Amanda’s only ‘frontline’ experience was in a development role for one academy chain of 34 Schools, a chain that has a reputation for being very prescriptive in its culture. However beyond this I have wider concerns that she will arrive in post without any understanding of what goes on outside of the School gates which is where a great deal of OFSTED’s work needs to penetrate, particularly over the next 5 years.