Money, sex and stress: 14 things we learned about Sir Michael Wilshaw today

The outgoing head of Ofsted doesn’t mince his words – and today we got an intriguing insight into what he really thinks

This morning, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw addressed MPs of the Commons education select committee. Here are a few things we learned from his appearance:

  1. He thinks a good school leader can make all the difference
    “Leadership determines everything in a school,” he said. “Leaders determine the culture. They appoint good teachers; they remove bad teachers.”
  2. …and that we should be doing more to recruit good leaders
    “What’s the National College of School Leadership doing?” he said. “When was the last time you heard them say anything about leadership? And have we got a good national system for identifying people early in their careers?”
  3. He believes the best school leaders were once teachers
    “Good headteachers could come from outside teaching. But I’ve not met one yet. I’ve not seen the chief executive of a local plumbing firm becoming a good headteacher.”
  4. He does not think his successor should come from the US
    “The US system doesn’t do as well as ours,” he said. “And there are plenty of good people here.”
  5. He does not want PSHE to be made statutory
    “PSHE has always been taught badly in schools,” he told MPs. “It’s usually been bunged on at the end of the curriculum – a physics teacher teaching sex ed in 15 minutes on a Monday morning. I wouldn’t make it statutory.”
  6. …though he believes in the lessons that PSHE teaches
    “A good school is not only about promoting the core curriculum,” he said. “It’s about making sure that youngsters do understand about personal relationships, do understand about sex education, do understand about careers.”
  7. He thinks that valuing teachers is the key to solving the recruitment crisis
    “If you look at the best jurisdictions in the world, the status of teaching is really high. We need to do the same here. We need to make sure that teaching is seen as a really good job to go into.”
  8. …and that this means changing the way we talk about teaching
    “We need to talk up the profession. So much of what we hear is negative: workload, children misbehaving. We need to say, ‘This is a really noble profession to go into’.”
  9. …and also showing teachers the money
    Heads of department can earn £50,000-£60,000, he said. Headteachers can earn more than £100,000. Heads of multi-academy trusts are “very wealthy individuals indeed”. So: “We need to publicise that. If you talk about making teaching a career, leadership a career – you can do very well financially.”
  10. He doesn’t have much time for regional schools commissioners
    “I’m not clear what the regional schools commissioners do, other than rebroker failing academies. We believe that RSCs should be doing more with underperforming academies, not just those ones that fail.”
  11. He knows that inspections can be quite stressful for teachers
    “All teachers, no matter how good they are, worry about Ofsted’s judgment,” he said. “It focuses minds in a way no other organisation does.”
  12. He thinks that teaching to the test is a problem with teachers, not the system
    “I’ve never met any good teacher who does that. What I said to teachers was, ‘Teach well’. And, when you teach well, the test will look after itself.”
  13. He does not believe that creative subjects are being squeezed out of the curriculum
    “That’s absolute nonsense,” he said.
  14. He has a handy talent for speaking in aphorisms
    “Education is a good thing,” he told MPs. “It’s good for the spirit; it’s good for the soul. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; more knowledge is a good thing.”

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