Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw is expected to say that England’s education system is still “pretty ordinary” and needs more mavericks, in a speech to school leaders this morning.
He will also use the address, which comes just months before his retirement, to apologise for any sense that Ofsted ever favoured a particular teaching style.
Speaking at a TES leadership conference at Bedales School in Hampshire, Sir Michael will focus on the characters needed to make schools successful, saying: “We desperately need more mavericks in the classroom and in the headteacher’s office.
“A pretty ordinary education system – unfortunately we still have one – needs people who are flamboyant, colourful and yes, downright strange. In other words, we need extraordinary people. We need our awkward squad. The independent sector has always had them – our state system needs more of them.”
He will also say that a “hint of menace” helps teachers to be truly great.
Sir Michael’s comments about a “pretty ordinary” system come in contrast to more effusive recent speeches from the Ofsted chief. In March, he paid tribute to secondary heads, saying: “Standards have improved in our country over the last 20 years principally because of you.”
And in October, he said that standards in England’s primaries had “never been so good”.
Today, Sir Michael will argue that mavericks who inspired him cultivated outsize personalities in order to reach the children they worked with – they read their students and worked out how to communicate with them – not through faking it, but through extending existing traits.
And, he says, he recognises that a teacher’s individual teaching style also needs to be rooted in reality.
He is expected to say: “Ofsted is not interested in prescribing a particular teaching style. If we were every guilty of that, then I apologise now.”
He adds that maverick heads are interested in their students rather than social media – and calls for heads to put their students’ needs above even Ofsted’s demands.
“If a head demands a course of action not because it is in the best interests of the children but because he or she is eager to please the council, the union, the government and, yes, even Ofsted, then they are not doing their job,” he is expected to say.
Sir Michael is expected to describe himself as “a maverick with a purpose” and say that teachers need to be “part Rocky, part Henry V and part Mrs Doubtfire”.
He will also restate his suggestion that Clint Eastwood should provide a role model for heads but note that: “Even Clint, when the occasion demanded, swapped a rifle for a guitar.”