|Sir Michael Wilshaw (artist's impression)|
Except he didn't. If you read how his interview was reported, you'd be forgiven for thinking that he had, though. There is an uncomfortable spectacle in debate, and one that I see regularly in my sixth formers: polarisation, then calcification, as what could be an exploration of the truth devolves into the more comfortable territory of binary brawling. Wishaw has become a victim of this, and some now can't listen to the man without hearing the words 'I hate teachers and all they stand for' buzzing in their ears like reverse subliminal messages from Old Nick on a Judas Priest album.
A cursory examination of what he actually said, rather than a game of Chinese Whisper outrage, reveals something quite different. His deractors claim that he advises teachers who leave at 3 to have their pay capped, when he didn't say anything like it. This literal interpretation is frankly, a bit simple, and makes me worry about these people being allowed to hold scissors. His remarks are clearly aimed at teachers who do just enough to get by, instead of enough to do well.
|'Michael, are you SURE this is strictly necessary?'|
Now, as the head of a body designed to inspect and regulate education (much as I rail against its functions in many ways) he is surely entitled to set a bar; to lay out his stall and say 'THIS high, f*ckers.' Some people apear to have mistaken him for the Candy Man, or someone who will rub talcum powder into their tummies after they shower. He (to the best of my knowledge) is not this man. He is the arse-kicker; he is Chief arse-kicker. His job isn't just about saddle-punting, but it is partially this. He is not the Cheerleader; he is not the Teacher's Champion. His job is to draw boundaries for schools and say, 'That's where you stand.'
Claims that he is a media disaster are made by people who endlessly misquote him, creating a media disaster. It's like pointing at someone and then berating them for being attention seekers. The media does with him what it will; lazy journalists will draw whatever caricature they think will make the best story; lazy media commentators (especially ones who have never dealt with the media) will claim that he 'should have known' the flack his comments would generate, and then generate the flack without, it seems, reading what he said. Or being aware of the irony.
I wouldn't mind, but education needs more than this pointless pontificating; at the bottom of this invented media circus of froth and foam, are the kids. And from what I've seen, kids in the kinds of schools we need to be most concerned about- low income areas- need the medicine this man is prescribing: boundaries; consequences; tough love; high expectations; teachers who can do this. And if we care about social mobility, maybe we should listen.