Academy trust boss set for Ofsted chief inspector role

Sir Martyn Oliver runs a leading turnaround trust but has been criticised over exclusion rates and use of isolation

Sir Martyn Oliver runs a leading turnaround trust but has been criticised over exclusion rates and use of isolation

Academy trust boss Sir Martyn Oliver is set to be named the next chief inspector of Ofsted, it is understood.

Oliver, who leads Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT), has been named the preferred candidate by education secretary Gillian Keegan, but his appointment is still to be ratified by Number 10, the Sunday Times reported.

Oliver had been the frontrunner for the role alongside fellow trust boss Sir Ian Bauckham.

Oliver leads one of the country’s most successful trusts in turning around failing schools in deprived areas, many of which are now ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ – some for the first time in their history.

The trust has also led on helping schools become more efficient and is one of four that founded the flagship National Institute of Teaching.

Exclusion rate and isolation use criticised

However, the appointment is also likely to prove controversial.

OGAT’s zero-tolerance approach to behaviour has been criticised: from its schools’ high exclusion rates to facing a legal challenge over its use of isolation booths. A pupil claimed they had spent almost a third of their time at school in isolation.

FE Week’s sister title Schools Week also first revealed the trust had run “flattening the grass” assemblies where ex-teachers said pupils were shouted at and humiliated.

Oliver himself also sat on the government commission on race, led by Sir Tony Sewell, which was widely criticised for underplaying racism.

OGAT boss criticised curriculum-focus inspections

Oliver, who was knighted for services to education last year, was also highly critical of current chief inspector Amanda Spielman’s new inspections. 

He was one of a handful of leading CEOs who said the switch in focus from exam results to curriculum would favour middle-class children.

Schools Week revealed in 2019 many schools under the new inspections had been criticised for starting GCSEs in year 9.

Oliver said at the time that inspectors were taking a “far too simplistic a view on when GCSE teaching should begin. Many of the children in our schools need a three-year run up.

“They don’t have books at home and space for homework. All that has to happen in school time and disproportionately their life chances come from qualifications.”

‘Schools transformed by OGAT’

Once the government has named its preferred candidate, they will appear before the education committee which makes its own recommendation on the appointment.

A spokesperson for OGAT said: “In our trust are schools in areas of high deprivation which had been under-performing for years and were some of the most challenging in the system when we took them on.

“These schools have been transformed by OGAT. They now provide students with a great education and the best chance to lead successful lives. Our schools have never been so popular with parents and local authorities have expanded several of them so they can take even more students.”

A spokesman for the DfE told the Sunday Times: “No final decisions have yet been made on the new chief inspector of Ofsted.”

Ofsted has been widely criticised following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry. Labour has pledged to ditch one-word grades for a report card, should it form the next government.

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  1. Phil Hatton

    Real feeling of deja vu with this proposed appointment and ‘Sir Michael’. He had turned a failing school around and that was seen as the right credentials. Only later did we find out how it was done. Let us hope that Oliver understands the role required beyond that of schools and has an impact on the inspection of FE by promoting the use of inspectors who are expert in each part of that diverse remit.