Chief schools inspector hits back against leaked criticism

Have your say

OFSTED chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has hit back at reports that Ministers and senior Government officials considered replacing him amid frustrations over his performance.

He said he would not allow the schools watchdog to be politicised, and would not be swayed from making tough decisions to raise education standards.

His comments come after a leaked Department for Education (DfE) memo revealed that high-level discussions had been held about the “serious and growing problem” of Ofsted and Sir Michael’s management abilities.

The document, was signed by Dominic Cummings, then special adviser to former Education Secretary Michael Gove.

It says that Mr Cummings, Schools Minister Lord Nash and DfE board member Theo Agnew were “increasingly alarmed” about the inspectorate.

The memo was also sent to DfE permanent secretary Chris Wormald and other senior officials and was followed by a series of meetings involving Mr Gove, according to reports.

This resulted in pressure on Sir Michael to shift Ofsted’s role and frustration at his resistance to efforts to reform it.

But Sir Michael insisted he would not be deterred from “shining a light” on under-performance in any type of school, including academy chains and free schools – a key plank of Conservative education policy – as well as local council-run schools.

He added: “I raised my concerns publicly about plots and smear campaigns against Ofsted and me personally by political advisers back in January. I am in good company. The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have also come under fire from one particular former adviser to Michael Gove. I didn’t come into this role to curry favour with particular vested interests. I took on this job with one single ambition: to improve the life chances of all children in this country.”

He said as the country’s school system became increasingly fragmented, “robust inspection” was more important than ever.

Sir Michael added: “I will not allow Ofsted to be politicised and I will not be swayed from making the difficult decisions that are sometimes necessary to raise standards in our country. Nor will I be deterred from shining a spotlight on poor performance, whether in academy chains, free schools or local authority schools, no matter how uncomfortable this may be for some people.”

However, writing on Twitter yesterday afternoon, Mr Cummings said that the DfE has asked Ofsted to be tough on poor performing academies and free schools.