Edfest: Wilshaw

Wilshaw encourages us to be bold. We can’t go back, he says, to a system of bland reports from perfunctory inspections of the 70s and 80s. Even in 1992, 40% of children didn’t achieve 5A-Cs. Now more than double that do. But nearly a third of our schools do not meet the criteria for Good, which is not good enough for a country wanting to compete in the global market. Standing still in this environment is tantamount to going backwards.

Forget the naysayers – children only have one education. The status quo is now good enough. Head teachers should be leaders of teaching, not just managers. We must appoint leaders who put quality of teaching at the forefront of what we do in school. Autonomy only works when it’s matched by accountability, which makes Ofsted even more important. Continuity at the top is alo irritant: hence Gove’s long reign is a positive. Educational standards are now in the sights of the PM. It’s a different world, change is hard but we’re on the right track, and we must not turn back now.

Wilshaw makes a lot of leadership and governance. They are key to changing and improving the culture and performance of an organisation. They may be bold, or cautious. The implicit suggestion here is that too many are cautious and defend the status quo.

We return to the thorny issue of performance among our poorest students, apropos of yesterday’s speech. Disadvantaged children in rural schools, coastal areas and more affluent areas are falling through the gaps. It’s no longer an inner city problem. The Ofsted grading system may be restructured to reflect teachers who do best with these students. Independent schools send double the number of students to Russell Group universities that state schools do and this has a profound impact on social mobility. The independent sector must do more to redress this balance. Collaboration and the spreading of good practice must happen. He holds up positive examples of Highgate and Eton and their work with students in London, and also Wellington/Wellington Academy.

Independent school leaders don’t have to deal with widespread disaffection, poverty, teachers moving swiftly to the opposite ends of the ability range within lessons and within the school day. These challenges are not there in independent schools, but this makes it even more important that independent schools reach out to their local state schools. Wilshaw issues a direct challenge to independent school leaders: help your local state schools. This is echoed by Anthony Seldon and Andrew Adonis. Just as Britain can’t retreat from the global economy, the splendid isolation of independent schools must come to an end. He suggests that Repton should have considered opening a school locally in Derby, where parents have only a 50/50 chance of sending their child to a good school, rather than opening an international school in Dubai.

“He who rejects change is an architect of decay” – Harold Wilson

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