Ofsted chief says “battlers, bruisers and battle-axes” are needed to raise standards in schools

Sir Michael Wilshaw.
Sir Michael Wilshaw.
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BRIGHT YOUNG teachers are being put off the profession by unruly pupils and poor leadership in schools, the head of Ofsted has said.

England’s schools need more “battlers, bruisers and battle-axes” to raise standards, rather than appeasers who are prepared to put up with mediocrity, according to Sir Michael Wilshaw.

In many secondary schools, inspectors still see scruffy pupils, sloppy worksheets instead of textbooks and low level disruption, the chief inspector said.

He argued that if England wants to do as well as other nations, every secondary school needs to have a good atmosphere of scholarship.

Speaking in a panel debate at a Sutton Trust conference in London, Sir Michael also took aim at private schools, saying that they should lose their tax breaks if they fail to sponsor an academy.

The Ofsted boss said that if secondary schools are to improve, then it is important that good teachers stay in the classroom and see teaching as a career.

“I’ve spoken to Teach First graduates on many occasions and one of the depressing things I hear from them is that they leave university, do their training, go into schools full of vim and vigour and enthusiasm wanting to do well by children in disadvantaged communities and are put off by the poor culture in the schools that they’re going into, by poor behaviour.

“And what they see - because they are bright young things, and very perceptive people - is just poor leadership.

“Unless we get leadership right then we will still continue to have problems.

“Our problems in the main, reside in the secondary sector, where recruitment and retention is most difficult.

“Secondary schools are not very good, in my view. If we’re going to match the best jurisdictions in the OECD and elsewhere then we’ve got to improve our secondary school performance, and we won’t get social mobility unless that happens.”

Teach First is a teacher training scheme that recruits top graduates from leading universities and trains them to work in schools in disadvantaged areas.

Sir Michael went on to say that inspectors can often tell how good a school is early on in a visit.

“They sense it as soon as they go in. What do they see? First of all they don’t see any staff at the school gates to see the children in. They see the uniform all over the place, those woolly jumpers that you see, not a smart uniform although there’s a uniform policy, they see a lack of scholarship and deep learning in the school, heads down.

“They see sloppy, scrappy worksheets rather than textbooks, they see noisy corridors and low level disruption. That’s what they see.

“And if we are really aiming for our children to do as well as South Korea and Hong Kong and China, we need to have, in every secondary school in the country, a really good atmosphere and scholarship in that school.”