Education standards are being undermined by the “pervasive resentment” of authority shown by large numbers of teachers, according to the head of Ofsted.
Too many rank-and-file teachers believe that heads “do not have the right” to tell them how to do their job, with schools often being led from the staffroom, it is claimed.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, said the lack of respect shown to school leaders was partly a throw back to the “disastrous decades of the 70s and 80s” when militant local councils actively sought to undermine head teachers. He insisted that heads should stop holding “endless meetings to curry favour” with staff and insert their personal authority on a school to drive up standards.
In a speech in central London, Sir Michael said school leaders had to constantly challenge teachers to do better, adding: “This won’t make you popular, but if you wanted applause you would’ve joined the circus.”
The comments are likely to anger teaching unions who have previously called for the chief inspector’s resignation following claims that he was undermining the profession.
Sir Michael, the former head of Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, East London, has actively supported a policy of performance-related pay in schools and told heads to block pay rises to staff who fail to raise their game.
Speaking at the Westminster Education Forum, Sir Michael said heads must be willing to make tough decisions and take responsibility for their schools without pandering to staff. “How many teachers not only grumble about their manager’s decisions, which is natural, but also question their right to even make them?” he said.
This was partly a throwback to the “disastrous” 1970s and 1980s, he said, adding: “Even today, too many teachers still think that school leaders do not have the right to tell them how to teach or what to do. The staff room, in their minds, is just as capable of deciding the direction a school should take as the senior leadership team.”
Sir Michael admitted that some heads and deputies were “not as good as they could be” and seek to implement “the latest management gobbledygook without thinking things through”. But he added: “I’ve come to the conclusion that many of their efforts are undermined by a pervasive resentment of all things managerial. Some teachers simply will not accept that a school isn’t a collective but an organisation with clear hierarchies and separate duties. While it’s true that we all share a common purpose, our responsibilities are not the same.”
Sir Michael insisted that head teachers should not “worry constantly about staff reaction” and stop holding “endless meetings to curry favour”. However good your staff, you must always challenge them to do better,” he said. “Complacency is easy to slip into and so difficult to shake off. Constantly question; constantly demand. This won’t make you popular, but if you wanted applause you would’ve joined the circus.”