Wilshaw: Teacher recruitment biggest challenge facing England’s schools

The biggest challenge facing schools today is the lack of good teachers and leaders on the frontline, Ofsted’s chief inspector has said.

Too much of the public debate around schools is wasted on discussing structures rather than the bigger issue of capacity within the system, Sir Michael Wilshaw told MPs this morning.

The former headteacher also reiterated his call for Ofsted to be allowed to inspect schools that have been judged to be “outstanding”, claiming they remained at “risk” when it came to safeguarding issues such as extremism.

Giving evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee, Sir Michael said the focus had to shift onto the issue of teacher recruitment, particularly in coastal areas.

“All of our concentration should be not so much about structures, we talk too much about that. The debate should move on to capacity issues,” he said.

And he added: “We would be happy if we had enough modern foreign language teachers. There aren’t. We would be happy if we had enough maths teachers and science teachers. There aren’t.”

A recent Ofsted survey of recruitment in several parts of the country, such as the North West, showed that coastal areas were experiencing “huge problems” recruiting teachers, Sir Michael said.

“The big debate is needed on how we can ensure we have more good people into the system. That is the big challenge for the country at the moment.”

The chief inspector also made clear that he wants ministers to change the legislation to allow the watchdog into outstanding schools to avoid a repeat of the Trojan Horse scandal.

“It is a risk and that is why I’ve called for the government to change the legislation to allow Ofsted to inspect outstanding schools on the same basis we inspect other schools and other good schools. We only go into outstanding schools if standards are declining,” he said.

“Three-quarters of outstanding schools aren’t inspected and that gave the opportunity of the governors in those schools in Birmingham to do what they did, because they knew Ofsted would not be around to check.”

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