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Sunday, 23 July, 2000, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Chris Woodhead
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST HOSTED BY PETER SISSONS INTERVIEW

CHRIS WOODHEAD CHIEF INSPECTOR OF SCHOOLS JULY 23RD, 2000 Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

PETER SISSONS
Now the big winner in the Chancellor's comprehensive spending review was education. Funding will increase by 6.6 per cent a year and this is substantial but it follows relatively small rises in Labour's first few years. The challenge now is to ensure that the extra money improves standards in schools. I'm joined by the Chief Inspector of Schools Chris Woodhead whose whole purpose in life is to jack up those standards. Welcome, good morning.

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Morning Peter.

PETER SISSONS
First of all about your inspectors, now I know a lot of teachers just because of connections I have, they don't like Ofsted inspectors, they refer to them in the most terms, the Spanish Inquisition, the Gestapo, as you yourself know there have been suicides, allegedly put down to stress inflicted on teachers by Ofsted inspectors and the manner that they adopt, not helpful, standing in the corner, keeping their thoughts to themselves, really putting teachers, who have a stressful job, on the rack, now what's your answer to that?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
I wouldn't for one money pretend that every inspector we have inspects according to our expectations and requirements but the picture you have just painted is a caricature, it's a caricature of the reality and I know that because we ask every head teacher whose school has been inspected to tell us to reply to a form, to tell us what the inspection was like, whether they thought it was professional, rigorous, whether they thought that the inspectors conducted themselves as they should. The vast majority and by vast majority Peter, I mean well over 90 per cent plus tell us that they think the inspection was a very high standard. I talked to head teachers across the country, I mean you mention your friends but with respect I know a great deal more teachers and listen to a great more teachers than you probably do and those teachers, yes they have complaints and whenever they have complaints that we think are genuine we will investigate them. But by and large the picture is not as bleak as you present it and I do think that this kind of caricature┐

PETER SISSONS
It's not just me presenting it, I think there've been references by the Chairman of the Select Committee?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Oh yes.

PETER SISSONS
Yes.

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Mr Sheerman yesterday referred to me as the, I think, witch-finder general.

PETER SISSONS
Yes.

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Which I think is...

PETER SISSONS
But you can't dismiss these things, I mean even if it's 10 per cent of inspections done that way you can't?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
No you can't dismiss these things, of course you can't and as I say we take every complaint seriously and we investigate it and we have continuous training and we're always looking at the way we do things. But when Mr Sheerman talks about inspection being, you know me being the witch-finder general I do think that that is irresponsible, grossly irresponsible because he's compounding the mythology that makes the work of inspectors on the ground that much more difficult, that exacerbates the anxieties that teachers feel - now that does not seem to me to be very sensible and also I do find it extraordinary that a senior Labour MP is attacking in the way he is, colluding with the teaching unions with regard to a different need for a different form of inspection when his Secretary of State, his Prime Minister see Ofsted as such an essential element within the government's drive to raise educational standards.

PETER SISSONS
Now you see you've just made one or two quite political statements, if I may say so, that's another criticism of you personally, that you get a little bit too, too political?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
I don't, I don't think what I said is political at all...

PETER SISSONS
Well...

CHRIS WOODHEAD
I mean I'm, I'm saying...

PETER SISSONS
You've attacked a member of the Select Committee?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
The Member of the Select Committee said yesterday witch-finder general, or something like that, I'm saying to you and I think it's an empirical not a political point, that to have senior members of Parliament contributing to the mythology about Ofsted being an organisation that's only interested in criticism, is wanting to burn head teachers at the stake to pursue the metaphor that he used, that is just not serious language, it's not helpful language. If he has got, or anybody else has got specific points that they want to put to us, want to put to me about where Ofsted is failing then once again to repeat, please do that so we can investigate, so we can improve but let's move the discussion beyond this emotive level of discourse that gets nobody nowhere.

PETER SISSONS
But would you like to improve the image of Ofsted?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Yes of course, I mean I would like every head teacher across the land, every interviewer who interviews me, every politician to think that Ofsted is a wonderful organisation. But I mean let's be realistic, if you've got an organisation whose purpose in life is to identify weaknesses as well as strengths you are not going to be universally loved and it's na´ve, it's idealistic to pretend it could ever be otherwise.

PETER SISSONS
Okay, now the money that's going in in large amounts into our education system, you must know scores of schools which have a lot of money, where money has been pumped in and it's made little difference, is this amount of money put into the education system going to raise standards?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Not necessarily of course, it won't, it all depends on how it's used but, a very big but, I am delighted that there is this additional investment, I think there's two areas in education where it is really, really needed and that's school buildings. I mean I visit too many schools where the buildings are in a really dilapidated state and it is desperate hard for the teachers to teach as they want to teach and everybody wants them to teach when there's damp on the walls or the roof is leaking or whatever, so that's the one area. The other is teacher's pay, now I don't think that the remuneration that teachers receive is the sole or even necessarily the main factor in solving the recruitment and retention problem that we face but it is an element and I'm 110 per cent behind the government's drive to pay good teachers absolutely as much as we possibly can as a nation. But...

PETER SISSONS
And your performance related pay?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Yes that's what I'm saying, to pay good teachers...

PETER SISSONS
Yes.

CHRIS WOODHEAD
The salary that we..

PETER SISSONS
Why should a good teacher stay in a failing school in a sink area where it's a real up-hill struggle to raise standards and therefore he or she will not get performance related rewards?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
No they will, that's, that's just not true, teachers who are making an impact in any school, particularly failing schools, will be rewarded, it's not a universal application at the same criteria, the criteria the same...

PETER SISSONS
But how is the impact measure?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
The impact is measured in terms of pupil's progress in part...

PETER SISSONS
Not just results, not just examination results?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Not just raw results - we're not comparing a school serving a deeply deprived disadvantaged community with a leafy suburb school, no, we are looking at the context in which the school functions as we do with inspection too, the comparisons are not na´ve but teachers working in those failing schools that are making a difference and I visit a good number of them, the comments that they make to me about the professional satisfaction in seeing things improve, I mean that's ultimately the motivation of any teacher, to see those children learn more, that they make progress, that they make progress that they weren't two or three years ago because the school was not functioning as it should.

PETER SISSONS
But we have a national curriculum, national targets, national league tables, have local educational authorities had their day in your view because more, we know that the Chancellor wants to put more money that goes in a loop round them straight into the schools?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Both the government and the Conservatives are clearly thinking and thinking hard about the role of local education authorities, we're inspecting, as everybody knows, local education authorities and we have found some authorities which are performing appallingly badly. On the other hand we found some that are doing a good job. Looking to the future it seems to me clear that we have to have a mechanism in place to support schools that are not capable of managing their own destiny and that we have to have provision of services that head teachers need, particularly primary school head teachers, advice about personnel law, advice on the budget and so on.

PETER SISSONS
But you...

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Whether, whether or not the local education authority should have a monopoly on provision of such services is the kind of political question that politicians, not chief inspectors, need to answer.

PETER SISSONS
Well you've got involved in the politics, you've criticised LEAs for political meddling in education by second-rate politicians?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Yes the functioning of an LEA, the effectiveness of an LEA depends, obviously, on the political leadership and I don't have any embarrassment about pointing that out. But if I were to pontificate as chief inspector about the future of local education authorities then I think that that would be an intrusion into the political arena. There's a very clear distinction here.

PETER SISSONS
I tell you what gets mentioned to me quite often by again, teachers who I'm familiar with, they have children with special educational needs because the policy is to educate them in mainstream schools, put into their classes and there's, they're nice kids but they do need a lot of attention, some of them have Touretts syndrome where they shout out and their behaviour can be very disruptive and to get extra help is a bureaucratic nightmare and schools are having their special needs budgets cut at the same time as the LEAs are putting in extra money for other purposes, do you think that policy has failed, educating special educational needs children in mainstream education?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
No I don't think it's failed and I think many parents whose children have got learning difficulties welcome the fact that their children are educated in mainsteam schools. But having said that each particular case has to be looked at long and hard and we've got to come to the right decisions for the individual child but also of course for the rest of the children in the class that that child is being educated in. I am sympathetic to what you're saying on this one, I think that teachers who are confronted with children who've got really severe behavioural difficulties and who are having day in, day out to wrestle with the difficulties that those children present, that's intolerable and that the interests of the majority are being sacrificed in the light of the minority and that can't be right.

PETER SISSONS
But there's nothing the headmaster can do about it?

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Well that is not true, I mean the headmaster can exclude children whose behaviour is intolerable and I think the position has now been clarified so that heads realise that that is the case, but I mean I'm on public record time and time again saying that if we've got children who can't conform to the expectations of normal schooling then those children, in the interests of the majority, must be educated elsewhere.

PETER SISSONS
Chris Woodhead thank you very, very much for coming in this morning.

CHRIS WOODHEAD
Thank you.

END

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