The prospects for a “well-rewarded” career in teaching are “greater now than they have ever been”, the schools minister has claimed.
Nick Gibb appeared in front of MPs on the House of Commons education committee as part of its inquiry into Ofsted’s work with schools.
Here’s what we learned.
1. Prospects for rewarding teaching career ‘never better’
During the hearing, Gibb paid tribute to the “brilliant teaching workforce and a brilliant headteacher workforce in our country”, and claimed pay levels “I think have increased significantly at all levels, but particularly I would say at senior levels in our system”.
He said it was a “good time to be a leader in our system because, because of the MAT system” because medium and large academy trusts could “afford to promote fairly young to head of school, because they’ve got that infrastructure above them”.
“If you’ve been a head of school you can then become an executive principal, an executive head and so on.
“So there is scope to beyond head of school now, so I think the opportunities for ambitious, able people to come into teaching have never been better. The prospects for a well-rewarded and interesting and demanding professional career I think are greater now than they have ever been.”
Gibb was questioned about retention rates in the sector. Record numbers of teachers left the profession last year for reasons other than retirement.
Headteacher turnover rates are well up on before Covid, with a Teacher Tapp survey showing leaders experiencing burnout had doubled since 2019.
2. Conservatives have ‘liberated the profession’
Gibb also said one of the things he’s “quite proud of” since 2010 “is that we’ve allowed teachers to have their own practice, which you could never do really unless you were in a private school”.
“Now there are over 600 free schools, most of which were set up by groups of teachers, and if you look at the top of the performance table, it’s dominated by free schools. This is what real professional autonomy is about.
“We have liberated the profession to do this. So it is an exciting time to come into teaching.”
3. Small schools ‘not engaged in big debates’
Gibb’s evidence followed that of Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman, who talked about how some schools not inspected for some time had become “a bit detached from what the rest of the world has been learning and seeing and recognising”.
“The whole debate and growth in knowledge about curriculum, about pedagogy, about assessment has passed them by,” she said.
Gibb told MPs that “some schools are, particularly a small primary school, are not engaged in the big debates about education, pedagogy, curriculum.
“And the involvement of Ofsted periodically helps them to do that. And then we have a whole raft of support that can come in, on the curriculum if that’s the issue, on behaviour if that’s the issue, on safeguarding if that’s the issue, to help that school improve.”
4. Wilshaw wrong on single-phrase judgments
Last month, former Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw told MPs the days of single-phrase judgments “are coming to an end”.
Asked if he agreed with Wilshaw, Gibb said: “No.
“Certainly I think it should be kept simple and clear. And behind that one word, as I said, there are four different judgments and behind those four different judgments there’s a whole raft of evidence that’s documented by Ofsted based on evidence.
“Ofsted continues to look at its systems and inspection approaches, about how it can improve its processes, and that will continue. It’s continued under Amanda. And I’m sure that Sir Martyn will want to build on that.”
5. Wellbeing support should be ‘commonplace’
Gibb was quizzed about the impact of inspection on the wellbeing of headteachers, and pointed to the government’s funding of Education Support’s provision for leaders.
He said that support was “important”, adding: “If you go into the private sector, senior leaders in the big industries…this is commonplace, this sort of counselling that chief executives of big major companies have.
“And I think it’s important we have the same facilities available for the leaders of our school system. It’s a very pressured job. It’s an important job. And this counselling I think is proving very effective.”