Ofsted boss makes urgent call for a new strategy to find good school leaders

Sir Michael Wilshaw.
Sir Michael Wilshaw.
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URGENT ACTION is needed to get good school leaders into low performing areas such as Bradford and Hull, according to the head of Ofsted.

The chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw said a national strategy was needed to find good potential headteachers early in their careers.

And he also told MPs that school leaders’ pay should be publicised to help attract good candidates into teaching.

Sir Michael said that school leadership was the key to driving up standards. He said he had submitted proposals to the Government for a system which identified potential leaders early and made them “apprentice heads.”

The Ofsted boss was answering Education Select Committee questions on the purpose of education. He told MPs that the system had improved in recent years with 1.5m more children now attending schools which were good or better. But he warned that secondary schools in the North and Midlands were doing “pretty badly.” When asked why some areas had persistent failure in secondary schools he said it was down to poor leadership.

“The most critical judgement we make on a school is leadership because leadership determines everything.” He urged the government to focus less on school structures and more on ensuring there was a strong national leadership programme in place.

“Its urgent, its absolutely urgent because where we see a poor school we see poor leadership.

How are going to get better leaders in Dudley, Hull, in Grimsby and in Bradford where I went yesterday where standards are miserably low.” He said the National College of Teaching and Leadership should have regional bosses who helped identify new leaders.

He added: “You can make a success of any town or city in the country if you have a national strategy.” He highlighted the transformation of London schools as an example of what could be achieved through strong local political leadership.”

This echoed comments he made previously in which he called for politicians in the North to take the lead on raising school standards.

On the issue of teacher recruitment MPs were told that would-be teachers should know that they can be in senior positions, earning high salaries, within a few years of entering the classroom. Sir Michael also warned that improvements to England’s education system will be undermined if action is not taken to address teacher shortages. Teacher recruitment has increasingly come under the spotlight in recent months, amid concern from some quarters about a growing teacher shortage in England.

The Government insists that it has spent hundreds of millions of pounds on teacher recruitment, as well as offering bursaries and scholarships. Sir Michael said: “I think what we’ve got to do as a country is to make sure we get more people applying for teaching and training,” he said. “And we’re not doing that successfully. All the great improvements that we’ve seen over the last few years could be undermined unless we tackle this very serious issue.”

The status of teaching is very high in some other parts of the world, Sir Michael said, and it needs to be the same in this country “We have to make sure that teaching is seen as really great job,” the chief inspector argued.

He added: “We need to say how good the job is. So much of what we hear is negative - the workload, it’s a difficult job, badly behaved children etc. We’ve got to start saying that this is one of the most noble jobs in the world and we don’t hear enough about that.”

He also argued that more needs to be done to point out the benefits of teaching - including the financial incentives.

Good teachers can take on senior positions within a few years, school leaders can earn more than £100,000 and the leaders of multi-academy trusts can be “very wealthy individuals”, Sir Michael said.

MPs asked about the impact of the move toward school-led teacher training and away from university led provision.

He said it was too soon to assess the impact of this but said one concern was that the good teaching schools which were leading partnerships were “snaffling up” the best teachers.

And he warned that the system might also not work in rural or coastal areas where there were not enough good teaching schools to deliver training.