Amanda Spielman talks to Ann Mroz at the Hay Festival.

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Mike Newman (SEA Cymru) writes:

Ann Mroz is the editor of the Times Educational Supplement.

Amanda Spielman is the Ofsted Chief Inspector. She was with KMG Thomson McLintock from 1982 to 1986 then Kleinwort Benson from 1986 to 1992. She was a director of Newstead Capital from 1992 to 1994 and of Bridgewater Business Analysis from 1994 to 1995. She was a principal at Mercer Management ConsultingBoston from 1995 to 1997 and then at Nomura Principal Finance from 1997 to 2004.

With this astounding background in educational theory, she became part of the founding management team at Ark Schools. From 2011 to 2016 she was chair of Ofqual, the exam regulator.

In June 2016, Spielman was selected by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to take over as Chief Inspector of schools and children’s services in England. Following a pre-appointment hearing, Spielman’s nomination was rejected by the Education Select Committee which expressed concerns about her suitability, her lack of teaching experience and her failure to show “passion” or understanding of the “complex role”. However, their objections were overridden by the minister, who dismissed their arguments and confirmed her intention to appoint Spielman.

Listening to Spielman amply confirms the Select Committee’s view. Previous Chief Inspectors were bruisers, invariably wrong in their policies, but with some experience of education. Amanda Spielman speaks with all the authority of a Tory Lady opening the Summer Fête.

She did however state, perhaps unwittingly, that Ofsted inspections had been in decline since 2004. With the loss of the requirement that all teachers should be observed and given feedback, most teachers and Heads of Department were upset with the lack of recognition. In the past, inspection may have been unwelcome, but it, at least, addressed the realities of classroom and school life. Now the only people happy with the process are Headteachers (of schools that do well) and the Chief Inspector herself. And yes, it had something to do with a shrinking budget.

At such gatherings, there is always someone, who asks, “What about discipline?” This, she said, was to be looked into later. No, she couldn’t give any thoughts on the matter. It was harder now there was so little lesson observation.

She was invited to comment on the fact that Britain was becoming the land of rote learning, while most other countries moved in the direction of understanding. She failed to take up this issue – other than the bland statement that the National Curriculum (Gove’s Capes and Bays) was not relevant, now that most schools were Academies and thus free of such coercion.

Her most famous initiative on illegal (mostly Islamic) schools was devoid of evidence, since these Schools were free to refuse to teach in front of Ofsted and not required to show them any teaching materials, assessments or even registers.

A number of participants raised valuable questions. These included the appropriateness of curriculum, the experience of working class boys, the occasional catastrophic inspection, the lack of educational guidance from Ofsted, and the extreme influence of small numbers of children on overall outcomes, as judged by statistics[1]. Answers competed with each other in their degree of incoherence and banality.

At the end, the Hay audience rewarded her with a round of applause, not for any value in what she said, but for her willingness (or lack of experience) to come to Hay and say it.

[1] Incidentally Estyn, the Welsh HMI, are about to stop grading schools with an overall grade based on prior statistics (Wales Online June 2018).

One comment

  1. FYI for attention of all those committed to free comprehensive education! Sessions have just been published for the covertly right-wing ResearchED organisation at
    Note session by Sophie Sandor, previously of the Adam Smith Institute, who is presenting on ‘The case for low-cost private education in the UK’
    ResearchED markets itself as a conduit for classroom teachers to improve their classroom practice and therefore improve social mobility. As with many right-wing institutions, it claims to be led by evidence and therefore value-neutral – ‘beyond politics’. It is very popular with (some) teachers and has a great deal of influence, having been supported by Tory ministers (notably Nick Gibb) over the past few years.
    By giving a platform to advocates of low-cost private education, ResearchED clearly indicates its political stance – not neutral and evidence based, but right-wing and ideological!


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