Sally Morgan’s career is helpfully summarised in Wikipedia. After a short time as a geography teacher, she has had a career as a New Labour apparatchik, working in Blair’s office before being given a seat in the Lords by Blair. Her appointment to the Ofsted Board, itself a Labour quango with no sensible purpose, took place in the early years of the coalition, probably at our partners’ insistence, which may be why David Laws, who is normally the most sensible of our partners, took umbrage yesterday at her removal.
In reality, it is good riddance – one sinecure should be enough for Lady Morgan – and the only shame is that the Board has not been abolished too. It is a waste of money, space, and fresh air.
The really important news on Ofsted this week is in this, largely unreported, letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw HMCI to inspectors,
‘Inspectors must not give the impression that Ofsted favours a particular teaching style. Moreover, they must not inspect or report in a way that is not stipulated in the framework, handbook or guidance. For example, they should not criticise teacher talk for being overlong or bemoan a lack of opportunity for different activities in lessons unless there is unequivocal evidence that this is slowing learning over time.
“It is unrealistic, too, for inspectors to necessarily expect that all work in all lessons is always matched to the specific needs of each individual. Do not expect to see ‘independent learning’ in all lessons and do not make the assumption that this is always necessary or desirable. On occasions, too, pupils are rightly passive rather than active recipients of learning. Do not criticise ‘passivity’ as a matter of course and certainly not unless it is evidently stopping pupils from learning new knowledge or gaining skills and understanding.’
This is long overdue. Labour’s changes to inspection in its disastrous Education Act 2005 allowed its other apparatchik, David Bell, to get rid of experienced inspectors and independently-minded contractors, and install people who wrote nice essays on his pet subject, “the management of change” – otherwise known as New Labour’s Year Zero, with no more reports on subjects in school inspections. This meant
that teachers would routinely be inspected by people who did not understand their work, and was the basis of turning inspection into a numbers exercise, with the numbers fiddled through fake vocational certificates to suit Labour’s game plan.
Sir Michael, and to be fair, his immediate predecessor, have been left to try to sort out the mess. He should never have had to write a letter like this – these principles are the basis of honest inspection, and were so under Sir Mike Tomlinson’s Framework.
Senior inspectors still don’t feel they can do their work properly. One national adviser has said publicly that she never sees any sixth form work in her subject, and so cannot report on it. Another senior inspector said of a recent inspection,
“We’re all playing a game. I don’t think the school should have been given an outstanding, as the behaviour was so bad, but they have the figures, and they can argue on that basis.”
So, well done Sir Michael, for continuing to restore honesty and fairness to the system. And well done to Michael Gove for getting rid of another piece of New Labour waste paper.