Olly from PSI: It was billed as Round Three of the Ofsted – DfE row (at least by PSI): The Education Select Committee’s annual scrutiny session on the Ofsted Annual Report. HM Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw was addressing MPs for the first time since the row.
What would he say? Would he persist in accusing the Education Secretary’s aides in the Department for Education of briefing against the schools inspectorate. Was he still concerned that Policy Exchange and Civitas, Conservative Party affiliated think tanks, were going to call for an overhaul of Ofsted? What did he make of the controversy over Gove’s decision not reappoint Labour Peer Baroness Morgan as Chairman of Ofsted? Did he also believe that the Education Secretary was politicising the skills inspectorate?
Sir Michael is a respectable figure of standing, not a politician, so he stuck up for his friends – with mixed political consequences.
On the one hand he said: “the Secretary of State saw me and said that no briefing had taken place, there was no dirty tricks campaign, or anything like that and that he would take action with anyone who was involved in that… he is an honourable man and I accepted his word.” Thereby immediately diffusing the notion that there was a rift between him and Gove.
On the other hand he also said of Lady Morgan: “I did say to the Secretary of State that I wanted her to continue, that she was a very good chair and my working relationship with her was very strong.” Which made the news headlines because it made clear that he wanted her to stay and that he thought she was effective, which by implication suggests that the decision to remove her may have been political because why else remove an effective and well liked Chair?
The reason why she was removed is because the DfE has identified that the schools inspectorate has the effect of institutionalising its leaders, which in turn become resistant to reform, just as Sir Michael’s revolutionary zeal has calmed in since his appointment. A new chair could add new vigour to Gove’s aim to change the inspectorate to suit the new education system.