He said the comments were down to naivety about the issue.

The outgoing head of Ofsted has spoken out about comments he made about teacher’s stress when he took the post in 2012.

In an exclusive interview with the Times Education Supplement (TES), Sir Michael Wilshaw said he regretted his ‘dismissal’ of reports of high levels of stress in the teaching profession. His remarks, made in a speech shortly after he took the helm at Ofsted, were widely reported in the media, resulting in headlines such as “Teachers don’t know what stress is, says Ofsted chief” and “Teachers should roll up their sleeves and get to work”

Wilshaw said the comments were down to his naivety about stress and his being unused to the spotlight which accompanied the top job. Addressing the comments directly, he said:

“I could say what I liked as a head and it didn’t appear on the front pages of TES. You suddenly realised that you had to be guarded in what you said. And I learned that very quickly. I suppose if a question comes at me: have I made mistakes? Yes, I have. But the mistakes were borne out of naivety.”

However, Wilshaw sought to defend his record, particularly on the charge that he had been too ‘robust’ in his leadership style, saying:

“In terms of challenge, I don’t regret anything,” he said. “We have got to challenge complacency, we have got to challenge mediocrity and we have got to challenge failure where we see it. And if Ofsted doesn’t do that that, who is going to?”

On how he would like to be remembered as the head of Ofsted, Wilshaw emphasised that he had been fair to schools, teachers and to the Government, and where he had been seen as difficult, there was sound reasoning for his conduct.

Wilshaw will be replaced next year by no less controversial appointee, Amanda Spielman. The decision to appoint her was blocked by MPs during the Summer, but was subsequently approved following a decision by the Privy Council, Schools Week reported.