Education secretary overrules MPs' report on new Ofsted chief

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Education secretary Nicky Morgan has confirmed she is pressing ahead with the appointment of Amanda Spielman as Ofsted chief inspector, despite a damning MPs’ report.

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Nicky Morgan has overruled the Education Committee

In a strongly-worded letter to Education Committee chair Neil Carmichal, Ms Morgan accused the cross-party committee of making a number of errors, including desiring qualities that were not on the job spec, and having a ‘narrow and stereotypical’ view of leadership.

The committee earlier today announced its rejection of the nomination, claiming it had ‘significant concerns’ about Ms Spielman’s suitability, after holding a pre-appointment hearing with her.

In her letter to Conservative MP for Stroud this afternoon, Ms Morgan overruled the committee’s findings, having considered the available evidence.

She wrote, ‘This has been an open and transparent process, where the best candidate has been selected on merit.

'A senior, independently-chaired panel assessed Amanda as eminently appointable against all the requirements of the role, and my judgement is that she was the best candidate from a strong field.

‘I have therefore decided to proceed in recommending Amanda’s appointment as the next HMCI.’

The letter added, ‘I was surprised and disappointed by the Committee’s report.

'Having read the Committee’s concerns in the report itself, and the transcript of the hearing, it is clear that Committee members’ views on desirable qualities and skills were different in very significant areas from the advertised person specification (which the Committee had received before the role was advertised, and had not offered any comments).’

It continued, ‘Amanda’s leadership and management skills have been illustrated in her previous roles, especially in her role as Chair of Ofqual, where she oversaw an ambitious reform agenda.

'These skills were also tested throughout this process. The panel commented positively on her leadership abilities, which were also evidenced by the psychological assessment.

'David Hoare, Chair of Ofsted Board has written to me to emphasise the importance of Amanda’s experience in running complex organisations and her strategic skills.

‘In the hearing last week, Amanda also commented that “raising standards is my absolute driving mission”.

‘Given this, I have every confidence in her vision for Ofsted as an organisation that will continue to be committed to “raising standards, improving lives”.'

Ms Morgan went on to claim the report had also made an ‘important error’ in suggesting Ofsted is accountable for failures in child protection, a responsibility she said rests with social care.

She added, ‘Finally, I am concerned that the committee appears to have been looking for a narrow and stereotypical representation of leadership, vision and motivation.’

Rather than a ‘crusader’ she said she was seeking a ‘rigorous and clearsighted leader who will lead the organisation and its inspectors to form reliable, credible and well-evidenced judgements about the quality of education and care young people receive’.

A spokesman for the committee told Nursery World, 'The committee has carried out its responsibility by holding the pre-appointment hearing and made its views known in the subsequent report.

'The Committee will consider the Secretary of State letter at its meeting next week.'

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