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Roland Martin - Issue #8

An(other) audience with...                                                        ...HM Chief Inspect

Roland Martin

January 19 · Issue #8 · View online
Headmaster - City of London Freemen's school; Chief Officer - City of London - '...write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing' Benjamin Franklin

An(other) audience with…  
                                                     …HM Chief Inspector for Schools

I was fortunate to be invited to the Livery Hall this week to hear Sir Michael Wilshaw speak. The event was hosted by CentreForum, who used the occasion to launch an ambitious fifteen year vision for Education in England.
Ambitions for English Education - CentreForum
It was the fifth time that I have heard HM Chief Inspector address a range of audiences and although I have not always agreed with what he has said - in particular in relation to the Independent sector (though I do wholeheartedly take his point that it is invidious that the richest 20% are six times more likely to get into the top universities than the poorest 40%) - I have always been impressed by his convictions, his desire to drive improvement and his ambition.  Oh, and his track record as a Head was pretty convincing, too.
It was interesting to hear this clearly principled leader on a day where I had woken up to read that some MPs were calling for him to be sacked:
Tory MPs call for Ofsted chief to resign over threat to raid Sunday schools in extremism crackdown - Telegraph
If he was worried about the headline that morning, Sir Michael certainly didn’t show it; rarely, outside of the world of Catherine Tate, have I seen a face less bothered …
And I think that, having heard him this fifth time, I could put my finger on what it was that is so impressive about him.  
Sir Michael is driven by moral purpose.  Absolutely driven. 
He used the word ‘moral’ half a dozen times in his speech, usually in the context of the duty that politicians or inspectors or school leaders have regarding children, but once, describing himself ('I have always been motivated by moral purpose’). If one wanted a model for moral leadership, I suspect one could do a good deal worse.
Recently, Sir Michael has been criticising the 'one size fits all’ limitations that most Governments impose on education, linking this blinkered approach with the poor recruitment and retention issues with which schools and school leaders - across sectors, I hasten to add - are faced:
Wilshaw: teachers exhausted by 'one-size-fits-all' comprehensives | News
His answer to the problem is not a new one - and he doesn’t claim it is (‘I know there will be eyes glazing over when I say this…’).  Invest more in vocational education and apprenticeships. And he spins this (old) idea into a moral tapestry using language that would be suited to speeches made before battles against the French in rhetoric written by Shakespeare: 
’…we have a moral and economic imperative to change direction…’ 
’…vaulting ambitions cannot succeed on shallow foundations…’
’…we cannot continue to fail our future…’
And of course, vocational education at its best and apprenticeships at their best serve a wide range of young adults.  Sir Michael’s vision for children is one of 'maximum opportunity’. 
I hope that Sir Michael comes out the other side of whatever storm is brewing politically - I certainly wouldn’t bet against him. Education is certainly better served by people with moral imperatives and genuine and heart-felt convictions and I hope this isn’t the last time I hear this impassioned crusader rally the troops.
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