Leading headmaster takes aim at ‘hypocritical’ Ofsted chief

The Times, 29/09/14, a leading independent school head will use a speech today to launch a savage attack on the chief inspector of Ofsted.

Richard Harman, the chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, is to attack Sir Michael Wilshaw in his address to the annual gathering of 250 school leaders.

Mr Harman, headmaster of Uppingham School, in Rutland, has previously criticised Sir Michael over his suggestion that independent schools should be stripped of their charitable tax breaks for failing to sponsor enough academies. He will tell the conference in Newport, south Wales: “We have powerful charitable instincts and a desire to share excellence. But don’t lecture us, especially when there is much more important work to do in other areas of the education system and especially, when many of you who do so, have yourselves benefited from or use the service we provide. Hypocrisy is out of tune with the times.”

He accuses Sir Michael of exceeding his brief by demanding that independents each sponsor an academy. Mr Harman also criticises Michael Gove, saying the former education secretary’s desire for independent schools to be inspected had united private school heads “like nothing else in recent memory”. He adds: “Mr Gove has moved jobs; his successor as secretary of state is clearly under instructions to upset fewer people, at least until May. Sponsorship may be a good way to go for some of us, but it is far from the only way of making a real difference.”

He also takes Alan Milburn to task, saying the chairman of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, “and others” were using “lazy stereotypes” by linking a school’s type to privilege. “When it comes to social mobility, we are part of the solution, not the root of the problem. We want and intend to do more, and the impact will be huge if this attitude is reciprocated by government and its unelected officials,” he says. Private schools add nearly £12 billion to GDP, he adds.

“It is time to stop scapegoating and start celebrating our schools and their contribution. Stop using them as lazy shorthand for the social ills of our country. Move beyond envy and take collective pride . . . that a small country like Britain has created some of the very best schools in the world,” he says.

By Nicola Woolcock. Read the full article © The Times (subscription may be required).