Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Thursday, 9 November, 2000, 12:29 GMT
Chris Woodhead: Fond farewell or good riddance?

Chris Woodhead's resignation as England's chief inspector of schools has divided opinion just as his time in office did.

Mr Woodhead will step down on 30 November to become a leader writer for the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

For some an educational hero has been forced out after years fighting the entrenched interests of the education professionals.

For others it's good riddance to a man who has demoralised the very people who have to teach our children.

Tell us what you think. Was Chris Woodhead good or bad for education?

This debate is now closed. Your reaction:

Mr Woodhead was an authoritarian for whom there were no shades of grey. Does anyone miss this type of person?
Will Jackson, UK

Chris Woodhead did much to reduce teacher morale and deter people from the teaching profession. Meanwhile, the Government has spent much money trying to entice people into teaching. Did it never occur to them that in order to get rid of bad teachers, it was rather necessary to have people available to take their place in the classroom?
Alistair Main, UK

Chris Woodhead only came over as stressing the negative

Robert Leggat, UK
I have, on a professional basis, had the privilege to meet many teachers. NOT ONE has ever objected to the practice of rigorous inspection. Indeed, in a school with which I have considerable dealings, independent scrutiny of this nature is welcomed and regarded as a positive process in the cause of improvement. So the objection to Chris Woodhead has never been on this basis. What has demoralised so many teachers is the fact that Chris Woodhead only came over as stressing the negative. No doubt he would claim that this is the way the media has seized on his pronouncements, but nonetheless he courted publicity, and should have been able to home in on and stress good aspects as well.
Robert Leggat, UK

I had no strong opinions about him either way but having noted the sort of people who are rejoicing at his going, I now know he must be a very good chap indeed! Incidentally, I am a retired teacher.
Jack Yeatman, England

Chris Woodhead has done a good job but the Government is unlikely to find anyone of the same calibre prepared to challenge the producer interests in education. It is now time for parents to be empowered to decide which schools are performing by giving them an education voucher for each child. The creation of a free market in education will force schools to compete for children.
Robert, England

Chris Woodhead injected a little bit of realism

Paul R, UK
Chris Woodhead injected a little bit of realism into a profession which had for decades deluded itself that it was doing a wonderful job. His departure may be welcomed by many, but for the good of our children and their education it is vital that a similarly robust person be appointed.
Paul R, UK

The debate over Chris Woodhead, seems to me, to be diverting attention from much more important issues. Each Ofsted inspection costs a great deal of money. Surely this could be put to better use. Schools are badly in need of enough textbooks to go round, smaller class sizes, additional teacher hours and, in some cases, adequate accommodation. The whole Ofsted process is stressful and demoralising - not just for teachers but for their students too. It is also worth noting that schools do have an appraisal system where the performance of teachers is evaluated and measures are put into place if an individual is not doing a satisfactory job.
Anita, UK

From my teaching experience I feel that teachers, and other school staff, who deal directly with the children's needs day in and day out, always have each child's best interests at heart. Unfortunately the excessive and unrealistic demands from the Government have led to increased pressure, without enough support, on school management, teaching staff and the children themselves. This has created an environment of stress and an increase in unnecessary work at all levels. There are thousands of dedicated teachers and children who are achieving their full potential. It is about time they were rewarded instead of being blamed for trying their best to teach in an inadequate education system, over which they have no control.
Anna Youngs, England

It is time for direct funding for school

John Briginshaw, USA/ UK
I think that Woodhead was a force for good, on balance. If state education is to flourish it needs to win "customers" from independent schools by weeding out ineffective teachers. However, bad teachers are not the only problem. Bureaucratic overheads and ineffective management at LEA level is also limiting school effectiveness. It is time for direct funding for schools and the dismantling of the LEAs.
John Briginshaw, USA/ UK

As a frequent reader of the BBC education website and occasional visitor to the Ofsted site, I have read with dismay and horror of the inquisitorial developments in UK education. Unfortunately similar thinking and practices have been emerging in the NSW system and elsewhere in Australia. I remember the inspiration that drew me to teaching and sustained me in my early years while I developed skills and knowledge in a complex vocation in which what is correct in one context can be less than effective in another. Very rarely did I find in education the situation where one size (or approach) fits all.
A Secondary Principal, Australia

I am shocked and saddened to hear that Mr Woodhead is leaving his position as Chief Inspector of Schools to become a leader writer for the Daily Telegraph. I am quite surprised by his choice of newspaper as I had always assumed that the vile little man was a die-hard Communist.
Dan O'Connor, UK

One of the few people within Phoney Tony's establishment that actually spoke up to make things better, to take on the teaching unions and tell them that some of the teachers were no good. If I am bad at my job only my company suffers. If a teacher is bad at their job every student that studies under them suffers. Because of this, firstly good teachers should be paid more, and secondly bad teachers should be rooted out and fast.
John B, UK

OFSTED was a good idea

Carl Gavin, Asia
As someone who came to teaching via the forces and then industry, it was nothing new to me to have to undergo assessments of one type or another. When I first began I really do believe that there WERE a lot of incompetent teachers in whom the whole country entrusted the education of their kids. OFSTED was a good idea and it shows that it works when you hear all of the wailing!
Carl Gavin, Asia

Isn't it strange? The last time I felt this good was when Maggie left No. 10!!!
Tim Riley, UK

Blatantly incompetent teaching and mismanagement of schools has ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people. All the teachers unions and the educational establishment seem to care about is protecting the status quo. Without Chris Woodhead, hundreds of thousands more young lives would have been ruined.
Nicholas Beale, England

Goodbye to bad rubbish - Mr Woodhead, you have failed your inspection.
Sue Denim, UK

Good riddance to him and his political agenda

John Crawshaw, UK
Changes were needed in education, without doubt. It's a pity he made lots of work for overworked teachers without attacking any of the underlying problems in teaching such as under-recruitment and poor behaviour. I've left teaching now as have many others. Good riddance to him and his political agenda.
John Crawshaw, UK

I attended my school's PTA meeting and the Governor's AGM at my son's school last night. I have never seen so many happy, smiling faces amongst the staff! Both schools are due an inspection soon, one of them this month!
A School Governor, England

Many people have criticised his confrontational style but you have to ask what good is a Chief Inspector of Schools who is sycophantic to the teaching unions? To improve, you first must admit areas of underperformance.
Tom Jenkins, UK

This resignation will allow the Blair camp to once again put in place another Labour/ Tony crony.
M. E. Ridley, England

Serious allegations about the misuse of his position of trust when he was a teacher were not investigated

Mark Parkinson, UK
By keeping Chris Woodhead in post after Labour took power, David Blunkett totally lost the opportunity to gain the confidence of ordinary teachers. Woodhead has found the press all too eager to publish criticisms of teachers and teaching. His enjoyment of publicity was at the immediate and long-term cost of seriously eroding the public's and pupils' confidence in teachers thereby making our job much, much harder. All the more galling was that this stance contributed to making him even more secure in his job - it would be too politically damaging to sack him. Serious allegations about the misuse of his position of trust when he was a teacher were not investigated. Totally unsubstantiated comments (even invented figures) were not corrected. Pontificating beyond his remit did not earn a ticking off. Questions about whether OFSTED actually provides value for money were shrugged off.
Mark Parkinson, UK

As a parent with children at a school containing blatantly incompetent teachers, I feel we have lost the only ally we ever had in the educational system. No doubt the Government will appoint one of its cronies to replace him and incompetent teachers will breathe a sigh of relief.
Chris Milburn, England

I often wonder about the sanity of a country that accepts without question the value of testing, training and competition in sports, but doubts their value in education.
Jon Livesey, USA

Woodhead demoralised and depressed so many in education

Malcolm Pitkin, UK
Woodhead demoralised and depressed so many in education over the years and must be held responsible for much of the truly poor atmosphere that fails to attract new recruits or older returners. In fact the misery and distress that his methods have imposed has resulted in uncountable resignations and early retirements. However a well-timed insult to the right politician has enabled him to continue his self interested career with typical profit.
Malcolm Pitkin, UK

It is clear that Chris Woodhead was only kept in place after the last election because New Labour wanted some tough credentials without having to go up against anyone who might give them a hard time in the opinion polls. They now realise that education and teaching are now nose diving into mass devastation and something drastic has to be done, as everything else they've tried (bursaries, fast track, performance pay) has only made things worse. I don't believe for one minute that it was Woodhead's decision alone to go.
John Griffiths, UK

Chris Woodhead should be missed by any parent with an ounce of common sense

J. Butler, UK
Chris Woodhead stood for a little bit of good unfashionable common sense, in the face of a substantial number of teachers who put the untried "progressive" teaching theories of the Sixties, along with rampant political correctness, before the needs of children's basic educational needs. Thus Chris Woodhead should be missed by any parent with an ounce of common sense!
J. Butler, UK

Teaching like any other profession has outstanding people and the incompetent. The real issue in this is that there has been a breakdown in discipline in schools. Let's address the reasons for that and stop trying to lay blame.
Matthew Snape, UK

I think that now he is gone we need to spend less time talking about what an awful or nice man he was and concentrate more on what we should do to achieve the best for our children's education. I think that the British people should choose who they want as an OFSTED inspector, as it would give the individual a more secure backing to follow his policies, not the politics of the current government - which I see as a disaster for all forms of education. Let the people decide who should be the next inspector and let him do his (or her) job in peace.
Michael Wing, England, UK

He did forget what it is like to be a teacher, and by his comments has damaged their public image and self-esteem

Heather Williamson, England
Six years ago, as Chair of Hereford and Worcester Education Coordinating Group, I chaired a conference where Chris Woodhead was the speaker. He was then newly appointed as Chief Inspector. He was quite charming and spoke well on education issues of the day, but I thought it significant that a delegate who had known him as a teacher warned him not to forget his roots. I think he did forget what it is like to be a teacher, and by his comments has damaged their public image and self-esteem. Much of the work done since then to increase accountability has benefited pupils and teachers, especially since the present government came to power, but as a figurehead and spokesman Chris Woodhead has been far too abrasive, and the OFSTED process has probably done as much harm as good.
Heather Williamson, England

I am sorry to see him go as I think that much of what he said was true. I know many wonderful teachers, but common sense suggests that there will be some poorly performing people in the profession.
Fergus Milton, England

As I believed one of Mr Blair's first mistakes was to not only give Mr Woodhead a new contract, but to increase his salary. I cheered when the news broke. This man did more to demoralise the teaching profession than any other. And when he should have been encouraging the government to reduce the mountains of paperwork associated with education he actively encouraged the production of more. Had his intellect been as large as his ego, no doubt he might have gained some respect.
Pat Vincent, Buckinghamshire, UK

I'm glad to see Woodhead go. He was appointed to be responsible for standards of education, but who decided that his standards were the ones that we as a country wanted for our schools? There is the contentious issue of his relationship with a student at the school at which he was teaching (I, too, taught at Gordano school) I have never seen laid out the standards we expect for our schools, and a check that Woodhead's pronouncements were in line with them. Let's have a clear statement of intent for our education system, and an audit of the record of the next prospective head of OFSTED to ensure s/he is in accord with them.
Angus Gregson, UK

I hope his successor brings more joy to bear in the classrooms, for teachers and students alike

Trefor Roberts, Australia
I have revisited teaching colleagues in England twice in the past seven years, and found the best of them dispirited. Teaching and learning should be a positive and creative experience, not a politically-driven pain. I hope his successor brings more joy to bear in the classrooms, for teachers and students alike. Keeping a watchful eye on this fascinating scene through all available channels!
Trefor Roberts, Australia

We are seeing the benefit of Woodhead's strategy - teachers and teaching are improving and there are more benefits to come. Teachers were long overdue for a wake-up call. Chris Woodhead sounded it.

I was amazed to hear Chris Woodhead say on Friday's Today programme that teachers had helped improve schools. Thank you for some long overdue credit. Let's hope it's not too late to improve morale and recruitment. I can't imagine many headteachers will welcome his offer to speak on their behalf in the future. Watch out for him standing as an MP for the Conservatives at the next election.
Jean Webster, England

I know of no teachers who will mourn the departure of Chris Woodhead. Students learn best when criticism is constructive and praise lavish, the fact that Chris Woodhead never applied this to the teaching force goes some way to explaining why morale and recruitment are so poor. I realised recently that during my 20 year teaching career only two of my colleagues have made it to retirement age!
Lesley Dover, England

Chris Woodhead stood up to the vested-interests of the teachers and their unions

Alex Moran, UK
Chris Woodhead stood up to the vested-interests of the teachers and their unions. That they complained so loudly about him suggests they knew that what he said was right and that they feared being found out. It will be a hard task to find someone new who will stand up for the interests of the consumers of education - parents and children - against the outdated and self-interested teachers' lobby.
Alex Moran, UK

Sorry, but his glasses did it for me. What was he hoping for? A place in a well-known soap?
Alex, England

I'm glad I wasn't taught maths (or history) by the teacher who claims that Chris Woodhead criticised 150,000 teachers as not being up to the job - in fact it was 15,000. Yet another indication of low standards in the teaching profession, perhaps?
J. W. Knight, UK

Teachers are trained to nurture the positive

John Sparrow, UK
Teachers are trained to nurture the positive, and not victimise the student for their weaknesses. It is a shame Mr Woodhead does not apply the same methods to those he constantly criticises and condemns.
John Sparrow, UK

Of course the Lefties are delighted - for 40 years they conspired to destroy education and learning in this country and hated having their stupidities pointed out and ridiculed. Chris Woodhead is one of the very few public servants who is worth his salt and our children will be the real losers when he has gone.
David K, England

He made the mistake of trying to make teachers accountable to someone other than themselves.
Peter, UK

Any effective inspector should antagonise teachers

Ben Broadbent, England
Why on earth should teachers be immune from incompetence? Is every teacher wonderful? No. Judging by how poorly our schools do in international comparisons, and the meagre salary teachers are paid, it is surely uncontroversial to say some teachers could be better. Without Chris Woodhead, none of these unpalatable truths would have been discussed. Any effective inspector should antagonise teachers - I would be worried if he didn't.
Ben Broadbent, England

Ofsted inspections were supposed to improve teaching standards. Judging by results, most schools do worse after an Ofsted inspection. These inspections are very stressful, demotivating, expensive (about 30,000; the cost of an additional teacher) and useless. They were a political knee-jerk reaction.
Phil Child, UK

About time - teachers should sigh with relief

Caroline, UK
About time - teachers should sigh with relief.
Caroline, UK

I doubt few tears will be shed for Mr Woodhead. He was obviously a man with a very high opinion of himself, and a low opinion of almost everyone else. Many of his pronouncements on the state of our overmanaged education system may well have been true, but a person in his position should have more regard for the way in which the message is put across. I'm sure I won't be the only person to think that he and the Daily Telegraph are welcome to each other.
Martin McManus, UK

Good luck Mr Woodhead, you are obviously too honest, competent and effective for government service

James Denning, UK
Alas one of the few government employees who possessed backbone combined with an admirable realism has been hounded out by petty-minded MPs who found the truth unpalatable and rather than face difficult facts and decisions, saw their way only in making life difficult for Mr Woodhead. Good luck Mr Woodhead, you are obviously too honest, competent and effective for government service.
James Denning, UK

Good riddance to Chris Woodhead - the man who said 150,000 teachers were incompetent. Teachers will shed no tears for him.
Teacher, United Kingdom

Mr Woodhead leaves the majority of teachers in a very worrying state of demoralisation and stress. All the teachers I know, including my partner, think seriously about leaving the profession every day. The workload has become immense and many many teachers do not believe they have the time to teach given all the paperwork.
Having said that, as a non-teacher I can appreciate Mr Woodhead's ability to get things done and make changes.
Richard N, UK

He has clearly found a home commensurate with his ridiculous attitudes and pronouncements

Peter Cameron, Hong Kong
The resignation of Chris Woodhead was a long overdue event which should have taken place a lot earlier. Chris Woodhead epitomised the worst excesses of the previous Government's lack of moral depth. He has clearly found a home commensurate with his ridiculous attitudes and pronouncements. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Peter Cameron, Hong Kong

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

03 Nov 00 | Education
Woodhead wants freedom to speak out
03 Nov 00 | Education
Hague detects bad news for Labour
02 Nov 00 | Education
The man teachers love to hate
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Talking Point stories