Press release

Sir Michael Wilshaw's speech to ASCL conference

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector sets out plans for more heads to get involved in school inspection.

Addressing an audience of headteachers and school leaders at the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders in Birmingham today, Sir Michael Wilshaw HMCI paid tribute to the work of heads across the country as he set out his priorities for further improving standards.

In a wide ranging speech that reviewed the proposed changes to inspection, Sir Michael made clear the philosophy behind the plans. He told the conference:

“The changes we are making will support good heads who are striving to improve their schools. I want inspection to be a powerful tool that good heads can use to challenge and drive up standards.”

Reflecting on the current strengths of the profession, he added:

“Ofsted is here to support headteachers who want to make a difference. Most heads are doing a great job and are driving up standards. That is what our inspection evidence shows. In addition, the recent OECD report identified that leadership in our schools is amongst the best in the world. We should be proud of that achievement. But we also know we’ve got to do better and that there are some schools where leadership isn’t good enough – it would be wrong of me not to say that.”

Sir Michael went on to describe what he sees as the characteristics of strong school leadership. He told delegates:

“You know as well as I do what qualities are required for good and outstanding headship. Of course, there are different styles and different approaches - but the one common factor in great headship is an absolute passion to raise standards. Great heads are never satisfied; they are always restless for improvement, rarely accept the status quo, and challenge poor performance. Leaders set the tone and culture of a school and create an environment where staff and pupils feel they belong to an aspirational community.”

Sir Michael also took the opportunity to reiterate the importance of the difference a school is making for pupils when making inspection judgements, stating: “We are not expecting schools to do the impossible. Let me be absolutely clear about this: raw examination results alone will not determine our inspection judgements.”

In conclusion, Sir Michael issued an invitation to the audience to get directly involved in school inspection. He outlined details of a pilot programme that has been agreed with the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) to encourage headteachers with National Leaders of Education (NLE) status to undertake a small number of school inspections each year. From September, 40 NLEs, following full training, will be involved in up to six days of inspections a year.

Discussing the plans, Sir Michael said:

“I am committed to more school leaders becoming involved in inspection. Those who already do this say it is valuable professional development for them, and it helps their own school to improve.”

The plans were supported by Phillip Minns, a NLE headteacher currently on a year-long secondment to Ofsted.

Mr Minns said: “I cannot over state how much I have learned in the course of my time working as an inspector. The insight I have gained into both the inspection process but also what makes a good or outstanding school has been invaluable and will be of tremendous benefit when I return to my school position. Equally I know that the direct frontline experience I bring to Ofsted means I provide the organisation with important additional understanding of the current issues facing schools.”

Notes to editors

  1. The speech can be viewed online. Further details of the plan to second NLE teachers to Ofsted will be announced before the summer.
  2. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

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