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Chris McGovern: Ofsted boss highlights schools’ ultimate failure


(This is a shortened version of Chris’s original article for the Daily Express, the full version can be read here)

Later this year Sir Michael Wilshaw will complete his term as head of Ofsted.

The Government, it seems, wishes to replace him with someone more “aligned” with its policies on education.

Sir Michael, 69, has never been afraid to upset the educational establishment, which Michael Gove referred to as “the Blob”, in order to report a few home truths about what is going on in schools.

In particular he has been critical of the extent to which able pupils are being let down in many schools by a “demotivating culture” and a “worrying lack of scholarship”.

His criticism of low expectations is fully justified. Two-thirds of state schools do not put forward any pupils for Oxbridge and in some local authority areas hardly any youngsters make it to one of the better so-called Russell Group universities.

Wilshaw recognises that too many children are being let down by trendy “child-centred” teaching methods. These methods focus on group discussion and lots of knowledge-lite “exploration”.

Too often, they simply provide pupils with an opportunity to engage in a lot of chit-chat. Not infrequently this degenerates into classroom chaos.

In contrast traditional methods based on “whole-class” teaching are rarely praised even when they produce good results. They are seen as old-fashioned, a remnant of the despised 1950s.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) however, we are the only country in the developed world in which grandparents out-perform their grandchildren.

Remarkably, the Department for Education’s response has been to tell us, once again, how well it has been doing. We “are pleased”, it commented, that “the OECD recognises the progress we have made”.

If bottom position on international league tables of attainment constitutes “progress” one has to wonder whether the description delusional is adequate to describe the Government department that has responsibility for our schools.

We need a royal commission of inquiry into education and one that is not controlled by “the Blob”.

Finally, the Government seems to have woken up to the problem but before it can put things right it needs to understand how we got into this mess.

If the new Ofsted boss is to have views more aligned with Government policies than the current chief inspector we need to be sure those policies are going to work.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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