Five urgent items in Amanda Spielman’s Ofsted in-tray

Ofsted’s next chief inspector has a lot on her plate

Ministers have put forward Amanda Spielman as their preferred candidate for the top job at Ofsted, as exclusively revealed by TES.

The chair of the exams regulator Ofqual will, subject to Parliamentary approval, take over the reins at Ofsted in January after the current chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw steps down.

Ms Spielman, whose professional background is based in the corporate finance sector, will face an inbox overflowing with urgent tasks. Here we list her some of her most pressing issues:

1. Credibility

One of the most important tasks for Ms Spielman will be to quickly establish her credilbity with the teaching profession and show she is the right person for the job. As chair of Ofqual she has built up plenty of experience as an education regulator. But she will only be the second non-teacher to be named as an Ofsted chief inspector. While Sir Michael may have become persona non grata among the teaching profession during his tenure at the watchdog, the one thing no one could level at him was a lack of experience.
And his combative style will have made his sucessor’s task even harder by turning many teachers and heads against the inspectorate. Ms Spielman will therefore have a tough job to convince them that Ofsted is worth listening to.

2. Redefine Ofsted

Ministers want the next chief inspector to reposition Ofsted, refocusing its efforts on carrying out a more simple regulatory role. In essence, to pare the body back to its core function as an inspection service. It coincides with the increased role of the regional school commissioners, who are steadily taking over as the school improvement organisation. Meanwhile, sources have also said that Ms Spielman is acutely aware of the importance of managing Ofsted’s budget “properly”.

3. Consistency

As part of this renewed focus, ministers are keen to improve the consistency of the inspection regime and ensure that all schools are judged fairly on the same basis. This has often been seen as the Achilles’ heel of the inspectorate, and it dogged Sir Michael for a large part of his tenure. Steps were taken to tackle the issue of consistency of inspections resulting in the shedding of around 1,200 additional inspectors. Ms Spielman will be expected to build upon the work already undertaken and improve the standards of inspection yet further.

4. Burden

The Conservative Party made a commitment in its general election manifesto to reduce the burden of inspections on schools. Nicky Morgan has made teacher workload a key policy during her time as education secretary, and the burden of Ofsted inspections is widely seen as one of the main culprits for teachers’ daily grind. Ministers will be eager for Ms Spielman to ease the load that Ofsted inspections bring even further. The new Ofsted regime introduced last year has made some inroads on this issue, but more will be expected.

5. Sir David Carter

Ms Spielman will also need to forge a good working relationship with Sir David Carter, the national schools commissioner. Sir David, who only took up his position in January, and his team of regional school commissioners have been handed a beefed up remit to take on the role as the government’s school improvement body. But the school commissioners group is still in its infancy, and how well it works with the inspectorate could be crucial to how successful Ms Spielman’s tenure as chief inspector turns out to be.

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