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Wilshaw: I decided on inspections


Education Secretary Michael Gove arrives at 10 Downing Street yesterday for a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron after three schools were declared failing

Education Secretary Michael Gove arrives at 10 Downing Street yesterday for a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron after three schools were declared failing

Education Secretary Michael Gove arrives at 10 Downing Street yesterday for a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron after three schools were declared failing

Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw was forced to clarify today that he took the decision not to move to snap school inspections two years ago in the wake of widespread opposition.

A row broke out earlier after the chief inspector suggested in an interview that his proposal for snap inspections, which he made when he first took up his post in 2012, was halted by Education Secretary Michael Gove amid concerns among headteachers.

In a statement today, Sir Michael said: "When I first became chief inspector in early 2012, I set out plans to introduce no-notice inspections for all schools as part of a wider package of reforms to improve the inspection system.

"As a result of representations I received from headteachers and others during the consultation, I decided to move instead from two days' notice to much shorter half-day notice inspections from September 2012."

Sir Michael's comments came after discussions between him and Mr Gove earlier today.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: "The chief inspector confirmed that the Education Secretary did not ask Ofsted to halt its plans for no-notice inspections in 2012. Ofsted took the decision after considering the response to their consultation.

"The Secretary of State yesterday commissioned the chief inspector to examine the practicalities of extending the use of no-notice inspections, so that any school can expect an unannounced visit. Both look forward to working together to implementing this important reform."

In an interview with BBC2's Newsnight yesterday, Sir Michael said he had spoken to Mr Gove about no-notice inspections in 2012.

Sir Michael said: "He said that we need to look at this and we need to listen to what headteachers are saying about needing to be in the school prior to the inspection so they can have a preliminary dialogue with the inspectors about how the inspection should be conducted. So we pulled back on that so they now have just a few hours."

In his statement today, the Ofsted chief went on to say that a llegations of a hardline Muslim takeover plot at a number of Birmingham schools have proved the case for snap no-notice inspections.

"Events of recent weeks have served to reinforce my original view that no-notice inspections for all schools are the best way to make sure that, for every school we visit, inspectors see schools as they normally are," he said.

"I recognise that the Secretary of State's commitment to this principle is also long-standing.

"The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have asked me to look at the practicalities of moving to a system of routine no-notice inspections and today I can confirm my intention to take this issue forward as part of our wider review of the future of school inspection which I have already set in train."

Sir Michael and Mr Gove were at odds earlier this year after the Ofsted boss accusing Department for Education (DfE) staff of briefing against him - an accusation that was strongly denied by the Education Secretary.

Sir Michael later told the Commons education select committee that he probably made an error in making the charge before checking the facts saying that his comments were ''a spontaneous act of fury''.

He also told the committee that in the wake of his comments, he received assurances from Mr Gove that there had been no briefing against him.

Just a day after Mr Gove resurrected plans for no-notice visits, in the wake of the Trojan Horse takeover plot allegations, school leaders said the move was "not an appropriate course of action".

Addressing the Commons yesterday, the Education Secretary said that, in future, any school could be subjected to tough on-the-spot inspections "with no advance warning and no opportunities to conceal failure".

But Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "If no-notice inspections become the routine, we would be opposed to it. It would make it very difficult for our members to engage in school to school support.

"Ofsted already has the powers to drop in unannounced if it has concerns. I'm not entirely sure what's achieved by this, other than damaging autonomy in the school system."

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "We do not believe that no-notice inspections are an appropriate course of action for this situation. Ofsted cannot police 25,000 schools.

"We already have an inspection system that has virtually no-notice inspections. In addition, we need to make sure proper safeguards are in place to ensure that the work of schools is monitored from the outside, and not just from Westminster, and that arrangements for governance are regulated."