Appointment of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills Contents
2The post of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector
4.The job advertisement for the post of HMCI stated that the Government was seeking:
an individual with senior experience in education and children’s services, and significant organisational leadership and management skills, who can demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards across Ofsted’s remit and their aptitude for such a high profile and public-facing role.
Table 1: Role profile and person specification
The Chief Inspector is responsible for the leadership and management of Ofsted, and as its Accounting Officer, is responsible to Parliament for the use of public funds. The role of Chief Inspector also includes:
- Driving Ofsted to be an ever more focused and effective inspectorate–one where the quality and credibility of inspection continues to improve while value for money increases
- Providing outstanding leadership to Ofsted as an organisation, including building and maintaining a high-performing workforce, managing change effectively, and demonstrating commitment to equality and diversity
- Leading and inspiring Her Majesty’s Inspectors and Regulatory Inspectors across the country so that Ofsted builds and maintains a committed and high-performing workforce of Inspectors who have credibility with the sectors they inspect
- Ensuring that Ofsted continues to drive improvement and raise standards in an increasingly autonomous school system, making fair and rounded judgements of school performance to promote educational excellence everywhere
- Ensuring that Ofsted continues to improve the quality of Early Years provision through a strong inspection regime
- Ensuring that Ofsted continues to drive quality in apprenticeships and the FE sector
- Ensuring that Ofsted continues to drive quality and raise standards in children’s social care
- Ensuring that Ofsted is able to respond to challenges in an appropriate and proportionate way–including, for example, dealing with issues around extremism in schools, colleges and training providers, child sexual exploitation, and increasing efficiency
- Ensuring that Ofsted is able to respond pro-actively to the direction of government policy and strategy, for example the development of more autonomous school and further education systems, innovative delivery models in social care, and the target to grow apprenticeships
- Ensuring that Ofsted continues to meaningfully engage parents, carers, pupils and students, professionals, and employers, and safeguards Ofsted’s reputation
- Representing Ofsted to the public, ministers and Parliament
- Working in a highly effective way with key contacts, including ministers, professionals and service users–for example:
- Schools, children’s service and early years’ settings, professional and sector bodies and parents and others who draw on Ofsted reports
- The Secretary of State for Education, ministers, and MPs across government
- The Chair and Board of Ofsted, and Ofsted’s senior management team
- Chair and members of the Education Select Committee
- The Permanent Secretary and senior officials of the Department for Education (DfE), Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and other departments
- Regional schools commissioners (RSCs)
- Leading public conversation in relation to the implementation of regulation and standards in education, children’s services and early years
Applicants must be able to evidence the following skills and experience:
- Strong personal commitment to the highest standards in education and children’s services
- Experience at the highest level in education or children’s services, including substantial organisational leadership skills and proven experience in leading and managing change in a complex environment
- Strong communication skills, excellent judgement under pressure and a high degree of personal integrity
- Understanding of and ability to utilise Ofsted’s role in using regulation and inspection to drive up standards and improve the lives of children and young people right across England
- Understanding of the current political landscape, and the direction of government policy, including on education, early years and children’s services policies and the Better Regulation agenda
- Sound financial judgement, in order to operate effectively as Accounting Officer, managing the Ofsted budget in a way which maximises benefit to the taxpayer.
Source: Department for Education
Amanda Spielman, the Government’s preferred candidate
5.Ms Spielman has worked in the education sector for over 10 years. Since 2011, she has been Chair of Ofqual, the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation. She acted as the interim Chief Regulator, Ofqual, earlier this year. Ms Spielman has also served as the Director of Research and Policy at ARK schools, a multi-academy trust, and currently works one day a week for the charity ARK (Absolute Return for Kids) as Education Adviser. She also carries out consultancy work and serves as a council and audit committee member at Brunel University, a Director at Floreat Education, a multi-academy trust, and a trustee at the charity, STEMNET. Her curriculum vitae is appended to this report.
6.During the application process, Ms Spielman declared that she had no conflicts of interest, but recognised potential conflicts of interest presented by her non-executive roles at Ofqual, Floreat Education, Brunel University and STEMNET, her consultancy work, and her adviser role with ARK. She said that if confirmed as HMCI she would step down from these positions. During the pre-appointment hearing, she confirmed that she had resigned from ARK and Floreat and would shortly be stepping down from STEMNET.
7.In line with the guidance drawn up by the Liaison Committee on the conduct of pre-appointment hearings, our questioning sought to test Ms Spielman’s professional competence and personal independence. We explored the following areas with Ms Spielman:
- The application process;
- Her independence;
- Her knowledge and understanding of current issues in education, skills and children’s services;
- Her future plans for Ofsted;
- How she intends to prepare for taking up the post.
Ms Spielman’s evidence
8.Ms Spielman’s CV shows that she has a broad range of experience in a number of different fields. We also heard during the session about the significant contributions she had made to the education sector, particularly through her roles at ARK and Ofqual. Nevertheless, we were left with significant concerns about her suitability for the post of HMCI. In particular:
- Ms Spielman did not demonstrate the passion for the role that we would have hoped for. We were concerned that, when asked why she wanted the job, she did not refer to the Chief Inspector’s role in raising standards and improving the lives of children and young people. We consider these to be the fundamental purposes of the job but in the session Ms Spielman offered little evidence that she saw them as her primary motivations.
- While Ms Spielman, through her work at ARK and Ofqual, has gained experience of secondary education, she did not convince us that she had a clear understanding of the other aspects of this complex role, such as:
- Ms Spielman did not appear to recognise the importance of building bridges with the professions inspected by Ofsted. In contrast to her predecessor, Ms Spielman would join Ofsted without any direct experience of teaching or children’s social care. She told us that she did not see this as a problem. Whilst we accept that frontline experience is not necessarily a requirement for the role, it is vital that the Chief Inspector can carry the confidence of all those working in education, children’s services and skills.
- Ofsted plays a critical role in providing assurance that children’s services are operating effectively. We would have expected Ms Spielman to acknowledge that Ofsted should be held to account when it fails to spot systemic failure. We were therefore deeply troubled by Ms Spielman’s statement that “you cannot say that the buck stops with Ofsted” on child protection. Whilst we agree that those delivering children’s services should be held responsible when they fail, the very purpose of inspecting children’s social care is to prevent children being placed at risk through service failure.
- Finally, we were concerned by the answer Ms Spielman gave when we asked about her vision for Ofsted. She told us that the “mission that appears on the Ofsted letterhead—’raising standards, improving lives’—seems to me as valid as ever”. We did not leave the session with a clear sense of how Ms Spielman would go beyond Ofsted’s mission statement to translate it into practice or of the direction she saw Ofsted taking under her leadership.
9.The normal procedure following a pre-appointment hearing is to report immediately to the House. However, our concerns about Ms Spielman’s evidence led us to write to the Secretary of State inviting her to reconsider her nomination. We sent a copy of this letter to Ms Spielman. We received a reply from the Secretary of State on 4 July. We also received a letter from Ms Spielman. We held a further private meeting on 5 July at which we considered the contents of these letters. Copies of all correspondence relating to this hearing are published as Appendices to this Report.