Ofsted chief claims that teachers lack respect and heads don’t manage

Sir Michael Wilshaw has claimed that teachers have no respect for authority and that many school leaders believe that they don’t have a right to manage them.

In a hard-hitting speech, Sir Michael said that headteachers are being “undermined by a pervasive resentment of all things managerial” by some teachers and this is hampering schools’ attempts to improve standards, The Independent reports.

“Too many teachers still think that school leaders do not have the right to tell them how to teach or what to do,” the chief inspector of schools claimed, “The staff room, in their minds, is just as capable of deciding the direction a school should take as the Senior Leadership Team.”

Teachers should also exert their authority and tell their pupils who is in charge: “There is nothing wrong in my view in saying to youngsters ‘do as I ask, because I am the adult – I am older than you – I know more than you and, by the way, I am in authority over you’”, he said.

However, faint-hearted heads also came in for a tongue lashing for being too concerned about offending staff: “They worry constantly about staff reaction….they seem to think they cannot act without their employees’ approval.” Sir Michael also wants them to come up with a vision for their school which is more than a ‘natty slogan’: “It’s pointless concocting grand plans if the school playground is in a mess, uniforms are slovenly, staff are too casual, children pay more attention to their mobile phones than to the teachers and the school reception has all the charm of the check-in desk at Ryanair.”

Did heads or teachers come off worse in Sir Michael’s criticisms – and was he right to make them? Share your thoughts with us!

16 thoughts on “Ofsted chief claims that teachers lack respect and heads don’t manage

  1. Wilshaw and Gove the Chuckle Brothers of the Education world.
    “Go on Michael after you.”
    “No Michael after you. You say something silly and outrageous. Then it’s my turn.”
    “Teachers stink!”
    ” My turn. Teachers smell like poo.”
    “Nice one Michael. From me to you”
    ” No no from you to me. Te hee te hee…”
    ” Oh Michael you’re so clever”

  2. I believe Sir Michael is obsolutely right in his comments about some heads and the staff. It is extremely important that a school has a clear vision, with a focal point. This then needs to be lived out bravely, with conviction and clear sense of direction and authority. Heads do worry about what and how their staff will react. However, it is important to keep in mind that this comes from a culture of LA control and process orientated

  3. , and fear of union backlash attitudes which the LA like to avoid! Some heads are left helpless. Maybe, policymakers need to think more appropriate talent management and recruitment training for leaders in order to grow and place the right leader, with the right qualities, skills and knowledge in the right context.

  4. Oh my Gosh, I have never heard such discrimination and rubbish! Now, of course I cannot answer for everyone because that we would mean that I am not much better than he but for myself and the teachers I know, I am deeply offended! If we have no respect for authority, how did we get so well educated? Why do we carry out our duties? Why do we work so many hours (personally, upwards of 50 hours a week)? Certainly the teachers I know do as they are requested by management (and the government) which is why we end up working such stupid hours. The requests by management are constant and relentless. Yes, teachers have a moan about all the extra stuff, but I have never heard a teacher refuse to teach and mark, prepare and plan, contact parents, arrange trips, report, open evenings etc., and a whole host of other ‘add ons’ like offering to do a Christmas play for the students.
    If we were to speak to students in the manner which he suggests, we would be sacked and never work again. Perhaps a law around that needs to change, however – if there is no respect in the classroom, there is no work. Teachers cannot physically force students to work, sanctions are minimal. Finally, Headteachers, after being a manager in industry myself and teaching being my second vocation, I can say that some Headteachers are incredibly bad leaders. Some do not know how to understand man management, treat their teachers as they would pupils, assume the ‘do as I say not as I do’ principle and are brash, insensitive and unreasonable. However, there are also some excellent Heads out there who do consult staff to get intelligent buy in for ideas, work with them, are considerate and will explain decisions rather than tell it how it is and if you don’t like it – tough. I have met a few excellent Headteachers with this attitude who have the teachers respect and more importantly backing. With this, they follow the reasonable leader and are happy in their employment, working harder.
    Just as a reminder – I am deeply offended by these remarks. I earn less than half I did in industry 15 years ago and I work myself extremely hard.

  5. Every few weeks this toxic teacher basher feels compelled to remind us how really unpleasant and out of touch he is. He’s like the former head of the Bank of England, who came up with similar jeremiads at regular intervals. He was clueless too.

  6. Maybe Sir Michael should learn how to check in on line and show a more educated and informed approach as taught at good schools and universities.
    Assessment of this speech; fairly well structured, use of emotive language but content needs more clear evidence as is too general. Please avoid sweeping statements. Grade D or somewhere in the middle of new grading 5?
    Show more knowledge of how good schools lead and manage staff and students. This was part of the course wasn’t it?

  7. It comes as no surprise that someone as disconnected with the real world, as so ably demonstrated by Michael Gove, should say this. So the idea of a consensual partnership is negative is it?

  8. Sir Michael Wilshaw has clearly not kept pace with the overarching social trend of the twenty-first century. The old approach to authority is on its way out – and rightly so, because it, along with other associated approaches are responsible for the shortcomings of today’s society. Of course, they’re also responsible for the new thinking which is largely a creative response to today’s problems.

    Any number of historical totalitarian regimes provide sufficient evidence for us to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the “I’m right because I said so and because I know better than you” standpoint is unsustainable in the long-term; but, in addition to that, it’s clear that a group of people, all experienced to a similar degree, can contain within it as many opinions as there people. It’s reasonable to conclude, then, that open dialogue is going to lead to a far superior outcome eventually. The sticking point is that school leaders often lack leadership skills, but instead view themselves as in authority – i.e. in command – over others: the old paradigm. True leadership requires a high level of proficiency in empowering others as partners in team-building. The true leader shows the way from the helm, and doesn’t drive the herd from behind. The result is that the leader’s team become inspired not simply to follow but to contribute ideas which can raise the performance of an organisation to a completely new, elevated level.

    When we pause to reflect on how exciting and stimulating this would become for participants at all levels of “authority”, we can begin to envisage extraordinary schools in which attainment in all areas, academic, social, artistic, physical etc. reaches new, previously unimaginable heights. In such schools, the Leadership Team, the teachers, the pupils and ancillary workers all have a role to fulfil and all develop leadership qualities through leading themselves in terms of their own principled conduct.

    I suggest that compelling reading on this would be “Principle Centred Leadership” by Stephen Covey, of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” fame. Another book of his, which looks specifically at the application of his ideas in the world of education, is “The Leader in Me”, a study largely of the progress of a single school, but including national initiatives in Guatemala and Malaysia. A moving account.

    As to who’s been hit harder by Wilshaw’s attack, teachers or headteachers, my answer would be the whole arena of English education. My belief is that he himself is unfit to oversee progress in our schools, due to his myopic, blinkered vision in the wrong direction! – backwards instead of forwards.

  9. I have experienced some excellent school leaders and also some very poor ones. many leaders are excellent administrators and poor teachers which is why they have moved to leadership roles. Others are also excellent at trying to get teachers to follow what is considered current good practice without thinking about why it is good or the reasons behind it. Education is politicized with teachers who want to make a name for themselves jumping on bandwagons to promote something within a school in order to progress up that greasy pole. I do wonder if sir michael actually appreciates that this is the climate and context in which many teachers lack respect for their managers.

  10. Very well put Peter Brodie. Once again an educational chief public undermines teachers….these people have no idea about motivating people.

  11. I have seen the staff room bristle when management propose change. You can feel the antipathy towards the management at times. It was confusing as an NQT and boring by the time I had a few years experience. The management have little contact once their new policies are requested to be implemented. A teacher is alone in a classroom a lot of the time and can do whatever they like. Only when they are challenged with OFSTED or a visiting management observation which in my experience is rare are they really tested with anything new. This is my experience. However, I do think that guidelines for any new practice can be helpful in terms of behaviour management across a school. I have seen this work in practice to raise standards. At least that way all of the teacher are using the same rules in class discipline. It is hardly surprising that schools are ruled from the bottom up, from the students, when management is weak and I believe that the situation cannot change because each teacher has their own classroom and within that they do what they can to provide an education and they are all individuals. How can you round up a whole bunch of individuals when they have their own work areas, you cannot. Mobile phones should not be allowed to be carried by students, they should leave them in their lockers and use them at break if they need to. Mobile phones give students an adult responsibility and they cannot manage it because they are so young. A teacher does need to be able to say that they are asking for something to be done by a student and that the student should do what they ask. A way of enforcing that would be to have a recourse for students who felt that what they were being asked to do was unreasonable. And that could be addressed at a later time. Its so on the spot its ridiculous in classrooms. Thats what makes it difficult to manage. Everything has to be dealt with there and then, in my experience, and that is not possible. Students leave the classroom and all if forgotten because it takes up too much time administering disciple once the time for enforcing it has passed. But if there were ways to address behaviour which is disruptive after the event then that would help. Most schools I have worked in don’t have effective follow up. We start again each lesson, which has its advantages as far as moving everyone one. But for some students thats not enough. They go on and on and will eventually, perhaps, be addressed when they have caused delay and lack of learning opportunity for many others. I think therefore it could start with the authority of a teacher being emphasised clearly to the students throughout their education.

  12. This bully has no understanding of leadership and will only damage our profession and the lives of young people. He is the lapdog of a very unwise SoS and is a disgrace.

  13. Yes, Paul Brodie!
    We need a collegiate atmosphere in our schools; one where the headteacher is the first among equals. This kind of talk, though, is very difficult for an insecure management mind-set to understand. And as for Wilshaw bemoaning slovenly uniforms, well, just look at Finland where there is no Ofsted, no national tests until 16 years old and NO UNIFORMS. Wilshaw puts a premium on this stuff because his idea of a great school is a highly disciplined/militarised one. Please watch the ‘Finland Phenomenon’ in Youtube if you haven’t already.

  14. Head Teachers and the Leadership Team, Deputy Heads, Assistant Headteachers, Senior Teachers, Advanced Skills Teacher) of any School especially Secondary Schools should Get off their back sides and teach at least four periods a a day(20 periods per week) and not until then do they earn the respect of their Teaching Colleagues. Leadership by example-isn’t it?

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