MPs have opposed the government’s preferred candidate to become the next Ofsted chief inspector, citing her “troubling” lack of knowledge of children’s social care as a key issue.
The education committee took the unusual step of declaring itself unable to support education secretary Nicky Morgan’s recommendation that Amanda Spielman take on the role.
The committee said Spielman’s evidence at a pre-appointment hearing held last month “did not inspire confidence” that she had sufficient knowledge of the inspectorate’s role in child protection.
In a report published today the committee said it was “deeply troubled” when Spielman, who co-founded the Ark academy schools chain, told MPs “’you cannot say that the buck stops with Ofsted’ on child protection”.
Neil Carmichael, chair of the committee, said: “Ms Spielman has experience of secondary education but she did not persuade that she had a clear understanding of the other aspects of the chief inspector’s role, including early years, primary education, FE, and children’s services.
“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. 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.”
Despite the concerns, Nicky Morgan has pledged wholehearted support for Spielman.
In a letter written to the committee about the findings, Morgan said: “I believe that her emphasis on evidence, objectivity and openness, together with her experience of strategic leadership, will make Ofsted an even stronger and more effective organisation.”
In a statement after the report was published, Morgan expressed surprise and disappointment about the committee’s stance, adding she believes Spielman “will be a highly effective leader”. She added: “I will now consider their report and respond in due course.”
The committee also criticised a wider lack of expertise on children’s services in senior positions at Ofsted.
“Ofsted’s social care work is currently overshadowed by that on education. In context of recent high profile failures in children’s services over recent years, it deserves a higher profile and is an issue on which strong leadership from Ofsted is needed,” the report said.
As a result of the report’s findings, the committee also recommended splitting Ofsted’s inspection functions, and creating a new inspectorate just for children’s services, something recommended by previous committees.
“In our view, the remit of Ofsted was too large at the time of our predecessors’ report and remains so today,” the committee said.
Source: Community Care