Education committee rejects Nicky Morgan's choice of new Ofsted chief

Education committee says Amanda Spielman "responses on child protection were particularly troubling"

The Department for Education. Image: Nick Ansell, PA

By John Ashmore

07 Jul 2016

Education secretary Nicky Morgan's preferred candidate to head up education watchdog Ofsted has been rejected by MPs after failing to demonstrate the “vision and passion” required for the role. 

The chair of the Education Select Committee, Neil Carmichael, said Amanda Spielman had failed to convince the committee she would be an effective replacement for Sir Michael Wilshaw, whose term as chief inspector runs out at the end of this year.

Spielman, who currently chairs exams regulatory body Ofqual, was nominated by a selection panel including education secretary Nicky Morgan, who said she was “uniquely qualified to take up this important role”.

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The decision to reject her nomination follows a committee session last week in which members raised concerns about Spielman’s lack of experience either as a teacher or in the social care sector. She acknowledged there were “some gaps” in her experience but that the role was about ensuring the “management team as a whole work to do the job that matters”.

In a statement released today, Carmichael said the committee had been worried about her lack of understanding of Ofsted’s role overseeing child protection.

“Ms Spielman’s responses on child protection were particularly troubling and did not inspire confidence that she grasped the importance of Ofsted’s inspections in preventing children being held at risk through service failure,” he said.

“As a committee, we did not leave the session with the view that Amanda Spielman was prepared for the vast scope and complexity of this important role.”

Morgan, the education secretary, said she was "surprised and disappointed" at the decision.

"Ms Spielman has a proven track record as a leader and huge experience in the education sector having helped found ARK, one of the most successful academy chains in the country and worked as the chair of Ofqual," she said in a statement.

“I chose Ms Spielman as my preferred candidate because I believe she will be a highly effective leader who will be unafraid to do the right thing and where necessary challenge schools, local authorities and government where education and social care services are not meeting the standards our children deserve."

The committee also pointed to a broader problem that Ofsted’s remit is too widely drawn. The MPs recommend splitting the body into two separate inspectorates, one covering education and the other overseeing social care.

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