With the end of 2015 in sight, we asked Whitehall's top officials to review the year, set out their priorities for 2016 – and shed some light on their festive plans. HM Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, takes part in our biggest-ever perm secs' round-up series...
How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2015?
This year saw some of the most radical reforms Ofsted has introduced in its 22-year history.
Firstly, we introduced a new common inspection framework, focused on key issues across early years, schools and further education. This single set of judgements is providing greater coherence across all our inspections, and making it easier for parents and learners to compare standards when choosing between education providers.
Secondly, we introduced new short inspections for schools and colleges that were judged good at their last inspection. The emphasis is on ensuring that those standards are being maintained and that the culture of the provider remains aspirational.
Thirdly, this year saw a major reorganisation of our inspection workforce. We now contract directly with inspectors and have increased the number of current practitioners on inspection teams – seven out of 10 inspectors are now serving leaders from good and outstanding schools and colleges. These changes have given us the necessary quality, control and flexibility we need to deliver our reforms.
What hasn’t changed this year is the rigour of our inspections. As chief inspector, I am determined to shine a spotlight on underperformance. Occasionally I am accused of being too outspoken, but that will never deter me from telling it like it is. It’s because this organisation is so frank and forthright that we have seen much progress in the performance of schools and colleges across the country.
What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?
In my annual report earlier this month, I highlighted serious concerns about continuing weaknesses in secondary school performance, particularly in the Midlands and the North.
We must fix the capacity issues facing our education system. Schools and colleges need the right leaders and teachers to deliver for disadvantaged pupils, and the right culture and aspirations to help create confident young people who can compete in a global market.
We need to encourage more talented people into the profession by promoting teaching and the fulfilment that comes from doing a great job in difficult circumstances. And we need to ensure a good supply of future leaders.
I do not want next year’s annual report to reveal that these problems have gotten worse. So this year it’s important that all of us involved in education work together to face these challenges and raise the prospects of millions more children and learners.
What film do you hope to watch over the festive period – and what’s the best game to play with the family on Christmas Day?
My favourite festive film is It’s a Wonderful Life. And I’m looking forward to a good game of poker with the family on Christmas Day.
Perm secs round-up 2015: Whitehall's top civil servants review the year – and look ahead to 2016