A headteacher hailed as a “miracle worker” for dramatically improving failing inner-city schools will be the new head of Ofsted.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, renowned for showing “tough love” to pupils and their parents, will start his new job in January 2012.
He will have a pre-appointment hearing in front of MPs on the cross-party education select committee and his appointment is subject to the approval of the privy council.
The 64-year-old will fill a role left vacant in June when the former head of Ofsted, Christine Gilbert, left early. Gilbert was said to have been under pressure to leave after the coalition government came to power.
Wilshaw, who was knighted in 2000 for services to education, is said to have been courted for the role for some time. Michael Gove, the education secretary, has called him “my hero”.
The son of a postman espouses views that are similar to Gove’s. He argues strongly for a return to traditional subjects, strong discipline, extended school days and no excuses.
Wilshaw turned St Bonaventure’s Catholic boys school in Forest Gate, east London, into one of the most improved schools in the country as headteacher between 1985 and 2003.
But he is most famous for his current role as executive principal of Mossbourne academy in Hackney. The school, less than one mile from the Pembury estate – the scene of the largest confrontation during the riots in London this summer – achieves results of which many fee-paying schools are envious. It replaced Hackney Downs school, which was described as the worst in Britain before closing in 1995.
This summer, after its first A-level results, seven of Mossbourne’s pupils got places at Cambridge, one went to the Royal College of Music and 65% went to Russell Group institutions – the 20 most prestigious universities in the UK.
Some 82% of Mossbourne pupils achieved five A*-C GCSEs including English and maths. The school’s catchment is very disadvantaged, with 40% on free school meals and 30% on the special needs register.
Wilshaw, who was born in India and came to Britain as a child, has taken out restraining orders on badly behaved parents and thinks nothing of sending pupils home for wearing the wrong coloured shoes.
At the start of each class, children pledge aloud in unison to maintain an “inquiring mind, a calm disposition and an attentive ear”. Wilshaw pays staff extra to come into school at the weekend.
He will take the helm at a time when the country’s education landscape is radically changing. One in three pupils now attend academies and a new tranche of free schools is expected to be announced shortly. Ofsted’s brief is slimmer than it was for Wilshaw’s predecessor. From January, it will concentrate more on pupils’ behaviour, teacher quality and children’s reading. It intends to make it harder to give schools a rating of “outstanding”.
Gove said he could not think of a better person to lead Ofsted. “He is one of the best educators of his generation … He has transformed the fortunes of thousands of children during his time as a headteacher.
“He truly understands what success looks like and knows how to achieve it – even in the most challenging circumstances. This role will allow more heads, teachers and other professionals to be influenced by this talented and inspirational leader.
“I have every confidence that his appointment will help to raise standards in education and children’s services in England.”
Wilshaw said he would try to provide a commentary on educational standards, but also to “challenge the service to provide consistently high-quality provision for young people and adults”.
In an interview with the Guardian last month, Wilshaw said there were “a lot of coasting schools out there, particularly outside urban areas, that are underachieving”. He said too many schools were told they were good and outstanding by inspectors.
“I was shocked to read that only 4% of schools are judged outstanding in teaching, yet 20% are outstanding overall … Have we gone for the soft option too often? Yes we have we. At 15, we’re two years behind China in maths. We as a nation should be alarmed.”
• This article was amended on 14 October 2011. The original stated that 85% of Mossbourne pupils had achieved A* GCSEs. This has been corrected.