Schools in London “50 times better” than 1980s
Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted chief and former head of Mossbourne academy school (pictured), has given an important interview to Christopher Cook of the Financial Times. What shone through was his impatience with resistance to change, often framed, implicitly or explicitly, in terms of wanting to return to a better yesterday. The best bits:
Tagged in: michael gove, Michael Wilshaw, public service reform, schools
I’ve been a London teacher all my life. It wasn’t a good place to be in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s; now it’s one of the top performing parts of the country through London Challenge. Same happened in Manchester. So, why can’t we do that in these areas? …
One of the advantages I have is that I’m quite old. In fact, I’m very old. And I’ve been around a long time in the education system and seen a wide variety of schools, and the reason I say that is because I remember what it was like in the ’70s and ’80s in London, in places like Hackney and Peckham and so on, and it was a lot, lot worse. Fifty times worse. Whereas now it’s a lot better. And it’s a lot better because we’ve got better people coming into teaching; we’ve got better leadership in our schools. More demands are being made on the school system, and it’s now a top political priority in the way that it wasn’t 30 years ago. And that’s been enormously helpful…
I’ve been a teacher and a head for most of my life. I know what good teaching looks like and I know what good leadership looks like. And there’s nothing better than being a good teacher in a good school. And that’s what I want, through the changes we’re making, all teachers to work in good schools. If they work in good schools then they’ll stay in teaching. I think part of the problem is that you’ve got a lot of good people coming in. Are they going to stay there? And they won’t stay there if they’re working in poor schools. That’s the issue.
CC: There are lot of people who are convinced that if only we could go back 20 years or 30 years, you know – what have we lost?
MW: Well, we haven’t lost much if you go back 30 years. And this is only because I remember how bad things were, when huge swathes, it was an unaccountable system. I started teaching in the late ’60s and into the ’70s and ’80s, and became a head in ’85, we failed generations of young people because of an unaccountable system that schools could get away with blue murder. Hackney Downs [which was replaced by Mossbourne] was a typical example of a school that had declined, year after year after year. And people knew it was declining, but nothing much was done about it until it reached the point when it became headline news and was called the worst school in Britain because Ofsted wasn’t around, because we didn’t have league tables, because we didn’t have the publication of results, etc. We don’t want to go back to those days. We’ve moved on since then.
I’ve come into this job at a time when we had moved on it was the best system. The question we’ve got to ask ourselves now, well, two big questions, really, are we world class? And if we’re going to compete with the Chinas of this world, and Shanghai, which is two years ahead of us in maths, etc.
CC: So you think we’ve made progress.
MW: We’ve made huge progress, but are we world class? We’re certainly not world class in terms of closing the attainment gap between the massive number of kids who come from disadvantaged homes and we’ve got to do that.
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