In the week when the BIS sub-committee on called on Ofsted to take a stronger and more central role in raising the standard of careers advice in the UK, MPs have taken the unusual step of vetoing the Education Secretary’s nominee for a new chief executive. Citing ‘serious concerns’, committee members questioned Ms Spielman had the requisite ‘passion for the role’, and questioned whether someone with no front line teaching experience was suitable for the role of leading the UK’s education watchdog and standards setter.
Nicky Morgan put forward Amanda Spielman as the person to replace outgoing Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw, but her appearance before the Education Select Committee left MPs unconvinced of her suitability for the role. In an interim report, the committee said:
- Ms Spielman did not demonstrate the passion for the role that we would have hoped for. We were concerned that, when asked why she wanted the job, she did not refer to the chief inspector’s role in raising standards and improving the lives of children and young people
- She did not convince us that she had a clear understanding of the other aspects of this complex role, such as: early years; primary education; children’s services; child protection; looked-after children; special educational needs; further education; and the educational support role for which local authorities are inspected
- Ms Spielman did not appear to recognise the importance of building bridges with the professions inspected by Ofsted – in contrast to her predecessor, Ms Spielman would join Ofsted without any direct experience of teaching or children’s social care
- We were […] deeply troubled by Ms Spielman’s statement that “you cannot say that the buck stops with Ofsted” on child protection – whilst we agree that those delivering children’s services should be held responsible when they fail, the very purpose of inspecting children’s social care is to prevent children being placed at risk through service failure
- We did not leave the session with a clear sense of how Ms Spielman would go beyond Ofsted’s mission statement to translate it into practice or of the direction she saw Ofsted taking under her leadership
‘A proven track record’
However, Ms Morgan has said while she was disappointed with the committee’s response, she would still pursue Ms Spielman’s appointment. She said: “Ms Spielman has a proven track record as a leader and huge experience in education.
“I chose her because I believe she will be a highly effective leader and where necessary challenge schools, local authorities and government where education and social care services are not meeting standards our children deserve.”
But she added: “I will now consider their report and respond in due course.”