Former Ofsted chief lambastes government's "Monty Python-like" approach to schools

9 June 2020, 16:15

The former Ofsted chief gave an unforgiving critique of the government's "Monty Python" like approach to reopening schools.

Plans to bring all pupils back to primary schools in England this term have been scrapped. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had wanted children to go back for a month before the summer break, but many teachers warned it would make social distancing impossible.

"I don't think the Department of Education have covered themselves in glory on this one, it very much appears a combination of Monty Python and Old Duke of York, marching schools up the hill and saying that every year group will return by the end of June and then backtracking on it," said Sir Michael Wilshaw.

"It's obvious to me looking at it the department hasn't consulted effectively with the professional associations and particularly headteachers who would have told them from the outset...that their plan wouldn't work," he continued, "they haven't planned it effectively and the result is they backtracked."

Former Ofsted chief lambastes government's "Monty Python-like" approach to reopening schools
Former Ofsted chief lambastes government's "Monty Python-like" approach to reopening schools. Picture: LBC/PA

He said the logistical problems of socially distanced teaching could have been overcome if there had been effective consultation and planning over weeks or months.

Sir Michael said, "The SAGE advice was well known in January and February that children could go back to they had three or four months to really plan for this, really bring people in, consult widely and effectively plan. I don't think the Department of Education has done that well.

"The consequences of this on children's education, particularly closing the gap between poor backgrounds and the rest, is I think very very serious for the country, both for education and economically."

He urged the Department of Education to plan and get headteachers' advice, "If I'd been Secretary of State for Education I'd have called in to local authorities and said look it's your responsibility to make sure every school is properly prepared well ahead of Boris Johnson announcing 1 June date."

"This smacks of really ineffective and weak planning of the department," Sir Michael Wilshaw said.