Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

It's Time for Sir Michael to Sing Up about the Arts

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

It's Time for Sir Michael to Sing Up about the Arts

Article excerpt

I have a confession to make. I have just read Sir Michael Wilshaw's last annual Ofsted report, a rather impressive 150-page document. It doesn't stop there: I followed up - "for afters", as it were - by reading a dozen Ofsted school inspection reports. Yes, I know I am a saddo. ("Get a life, Grandpa," was the sage advice of 10-year-old Poppy, with whom I now have to argue about my insecure relationship with grammar.)

There was, however, a purpose to my gorging on Ofsted reports. I was searching for mention of music, drama, dance, art, creativity and residentials; and of character and resilience. Of the first group, there was no mention and of the second, half-a-dozen cursory references. Had I searched for English/literacy, maths, behaviour, attendance or the quality of teaching, learning and leadership, the story, as you can probably guess, would have been different.

I would have emerged well-informed. Indeed, I learned a lot in my surfeit of HMCI writing, as I always have since Eric Bolton initiated these reports in the late 1970s, and I do hope that Sir Michael's final effort is written in the same tradition of no-holds-barred brutal honesty.

It is what HMCI emphasises in individual reports and the annual survey that interests me as, of course, it most affects what schools themselves seek to do. On present evidence, they could be forgiven for thinking that the arts don't matter.

Most heads used to have the courage of their convictions. When faced with a difficult decision they would choose the right course for the individual pupil, even when it seemed to go against how the school wanted to be judged when Ofsted came calling.

Many still do that, but every head is deeply aware that any given set of results might put their school in the firing line and that a one-day inspection can so easily turn into two and end in a dreaded "category".

It is time for the fearless Sir Michael to use the last months of his tenure to change that atmosphere by reflecting on the importance of the less easily measurable. …

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