Birmingham City Council has hit back angrily at scathing criticism from outgoing Ofsted chair Sir Michael Wilshaw, saying it will write to the government to complain about an “extraordniary outburst” that was not “based on fact or evidence”.
Sir Michael used his final interview before he steps down from his role to brand Birmingham “the equivalent of a 19th century rotten borough” with failing schools and children’s social care services.
In an interview published in the Sunday Times, Sir Michael said he feared a repeat of the so-called “Trojan Horse issues” in the city’s schools unless the government intervened over corporate governance.
He previously wrote to former education secretary Nicky Morgan to warn the council’s political leadership was “incapable” of delivering sustained improvements in children’s social care services which have been rated inadequate by Ofsted for eight consecutive years.
Today Birmingham’s leader John Clancy (Lab) said Sir Michael had an “an appalling record of harm to both education and children’s social services”.
Cllr Clancy added: “[Sir Michael’s] high-handed approach had all too often appeared to be a political attack on those that run and work in Birmingham children’s services and schools.
“This latest appalling outburst exemplifies his entire approach from day one and I believe his pompous interventions have actually been in real danger of harming the social fabric of the city.”
Cllr Clancy said Sir Michael’s comments were ”the last rants of an outgoing civil servant” and questioned his record given the fact 70% of council children’s services nationally were rated inadequate or requiring improvement and the number of schools in special measures was now at a record high.
Cllr Clancy said eight of the Birmingham’s secondary schools were now rated good or outstanding, which he said had the best GCSE results of any of the core cities. He added improvements in children’s services were noted by Ofsted last month.
Earlier this month Sir Michael said schools in Birmingham were “generally improving” but warned headteachers had reported that there continues to be a minority of people in the city who still want to “destabilise” schools.
Sir Michael also said he was “far from assured” councils were carrying out their safeguarding duties in relation to children being educated outside mainstream schools and accused community and political leaders of “complacency”.
Brigid Jones (Lab), Birmingham’s cabinet member for children families and schools, today said the council, the Department for Education and children’s commissioners “did not recognise” Sir Michael’s “caricature” of the city.
She added: “Not only have Sir Michael’s own Ofsted inspectors confirmed our progress in protecting vulnerable children in a report published just two weeks ago, the DfE has confirmed that we no longer need an education commissioner, such is the good work we are doing.
“What a shame it is that these unfortunate and intemperate comments achieve nothing positive, but instead potentially demoralise our incredibly hard-working social workers and teachers and paint an unfair and inaccurate portrait of our wonderful and vibrant city.”