Honestly, it has got to the point where Michael Wilshaw's pronouncements: on how teaching should be done; how teachers should behave; how much of a gut needs to be busted in order for teachers to even approach doing their job properly; could be safely ignored by everyone within the profession and indeed anyone with a stake in the education system. His words are inflammatory, unhelpful, perhaps even incitement. He does have previous, though. He was the one who failed to notice the literal meaning of the word satisfactory when saying that schools that were satisfactory needed to improve to good.
It seems to me to be a form of playing to the gallery. For some reason, teachers are one of those categories of people who it's okay to be negative about in general conversation. It's a bit like the thing where you're allowed (ish) to say that you're useless at maths in polite company, and it's not challenged frequently enough. It's not a badge of honour to be useless at maths - it doesn't make you cool - and it's not a badge of honour to think the worst of teachers - it doesn't make you a deep individual sticking it to the system. So Wilshaw - who despite in theory not being a political figure during his time at Ofsted - weighs in on a range of political-to-do-with-education topics, and there aren't many occasions when you can see him saying: look, teachers do a reasonably tough job (mostly) reasonably well, and when you consider the hammering they get in the right-wing press (and off successive governments) it's a wonder they continue to educate your rather demanding kids. In fact, the teaching unions look after the interests of their members, rather than just existing to say stuff that's offensive to the Daily Mail, and those members are frequently let down by their ultimate paymasters in government, particularly when it comes to the frankly wild suggestions of how education might be improved, usually involving teachers working longer hours. And those kids who roll up to school expecting to get away with doing the square root of fuck all? I blame the parents, actually, not the teachers, who have thirty of them at a time to try to organise, and can't necessarily accurately monitor the amount of time each kid spends looking under the desk to text their mates.
You don't hear him say that. And the reason is there's nothing to be gained for a commentator to piss off quite a wide range of the electorate with the difficult-to-face-but-nevertheless-fairly-obvious truth that is the kids make the most difference to their outcomes, and the influence of an individual teacher on any given kid's trajectory is pretty minimal. You don't hear the discussion of the subtle points around peer influence, culture, the way the instantaneous gratification of mobile phones and immersive computer games make the rather pedestrian task of teaching Y9 Energy that much harder... Again, those are things that broadly absolve teachers of responsibility for the poor performance of particular kids, and bring it back around to the kid and the circumstances they exist in.
You don't need to spend much time investigating how parents feel about the return to school to find that what schools do is - any way you cut it - absolutely incredible. A teacher will take 30 or so kids at a time, easily bored, with short attention spans, with phones that are much more interesting than our subject, whose behaviour can at times be anti-social or even bordering on the sociopathic to be honest (and that's all just the teachers...), give up a decent amount of the punishments that might actually tell (particularly at the moment!) before we even get going, and somehow - somehow - manage to get through a lesson having taught most of them something most of the time. So - and I don't say this very often - Wilshaw can fuck off. He either said what he said in ignorance of its implications, in which case it just beggars belief that he was HM's Chief Inspector of Schools for five years on the basis of limited his competence. Or he said it in the full knowledge of what it implies - that teachers dying as a direct result of the decision to send all students back to school is an acceptable sacrifice - in which case he is spiteful, vindictive even. Interestingly, the same standard of willingness to die does not seem to apply to Ofsted itself, which didn't inspect any schools in the last term because of the potential danger of school environments.
Still, at least it brings an important point to the fore. Education has broadly carried on, and yes, it's not as good as what happens in the school building, but what we're there for - in the end - is to make sure that the economy can run as normal, because getting kids back in school lets their parents get back to work, and, by extension, buying sandwiches from Pret.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought