Sir Michael Wilshaw hits back at ‘faceless’ schools commissioners

Sir Michael Wilshaw has hit back at regional schools commissioners, referring to them as “faceless” government agents, lacking in independence.

The Ofsted chief inspector’s comments to the Commons education select committee this morning are the latest sally in what is developing into a war of words between two of the most powerful figures in England’s schools system.

Last week Sir David Carter, the new national school commissioner, told TES that his regional commissioners had a “more signicant”, “all-encompassing role”, and a “broader picture” of schools, than Ofsted’s most senior inspectors.

But today, asked whether his inspectors would work with regional schools commissioners (RSCs) across the country, Sir Michael said: “I’m not clear what the regional schools commissioners do, other than rebroker failing academies.

“Sometimes relationships are a bit tense, because we believe that RSCs should be doing more with underperforming academies, not just those ones that fail.

“If a school is coasting, unless we intervene quickly, they will decline.”

The battle between the two Knights has already been billed as “King David versus King Michael” by one senior insider at the Department for Education.

This morning, MPs fanned the flames of discord, asking Sir Michael whether he felt that Ofsted inspectors would eventually be rendered redundant by RSCs.

“We need Ofsted, which is independent,” Sir Michael said. “That’s the most important thing about our organisation: it’s an independent inspectorate.

“The RSCs are not independent. Their job is to champion academies. Our job is to say: it doesn’t matter if it’s an academy or a local-authority school, whether it’s a primary or secondary or free school. We’re only interested in standards.

“And we provide you, Parliament, with a national picture of standards. RSCs won’t be able to do that.”

Even when MPs tried to move the subject on, Sir Michael returned to this theme. He spoke about the important role that local mayors can play in ensuring their constituents have the best education, regardless of type of school.

“Those powerful political figures that parents can identify with – that’s the thing,” he said. “Can the parents really identify with faceless RSCs, who cover great swathes of the country?”

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