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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 12:07 GMT
School children 'betrayed': Is Woodhead right?

A generation of school children has been betrayed by Tony Blair's government, says the former chief schools inspector for England, Chris Woodhead.

The government is responsible for a proliferation of untried initiatives and a waste of taxpayer's money. Moreover, its vision for education can be described as "essentially utilitarian", Mr Woodhead argues.

Not so, counters Education Secretary David Blunkett. The government had to temper Mr Woodhead's proposals to prevent an over-emphasis on literacy and numeracy work, and to prevent bad teachers from taking salary cuts.

Are children suffering because the government has a "depressing, narrow and misguided" approach to education? Or is all this sour grapes on Mr Woodhead's part as he pushes a Conservative agenda?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


Perhaps this recent controversy may allow the proper debate to begin

Julian, UK
Education is the tool by which one frees oneself to go on and achieve things in life. This may take many forms but our educators have not woken up to the (very rapid) changes in the real world and more needs to be done. Perhaps this recent controversy may allow the proper debate to begin which has been held back by years of competing educational dogma.
Julian, UK

I think children are betrayed by a system that makes them specialise in a few subjects from an early age. I believe in a comprehensive education.
Pascal Jacquemain, UK (French)

It is about time the Labour Government left teachers to teach, and not spend endless hours trying to sort through yet more spin and initiative. We also need to support teachers, allowing them to discipline unruly children. At the moment we have a system aimed at sending them to court. Blunkett should be ashamed of what he has done to education.
Justin Tomlinson, England


We are unclear what we expect from the education system

Sarah Leighton, Argentina
Frankly, my children are having to study much harder than I ever did in order to gain similar results. They are also expected to have a wider range of skills. If something is going wrong it is that we are unclear what we expect from the education system. We want sparkling results in academic subjects, practical skills and well-adjusted, individually taught children. We can't have it all.
Sarah Leighton, Argentina

I'm one of a rare breed - a graduate with a good degree who starts a teacher training course in September. Believe it or not, I'm not going into the profession for the holidays but because I want to make a difference to children's lives - to give them skills that they will be able to draw upon for the rest of their lives. Anyone who thinks teachers roll in at 9.00am, and clock off at 3.30pm is a fool, and calling it a part-time job is insulting.
EM, UK

Are there any teachers out there who agree that SOMETHING had to be done about standards in our schools? The system was left to run substantially under the "professional" influence of teachers for quite a long time which, whether you like it or not, corresponded with great disparities in the quality of education delivered from school to school. As far as I see it, ineffective and usually trendy left-wing teachers are being given nowhere to hide (unlike in the 70's when I was educated) and anyone with a gripe - on the right or left - is using Woodhead to justify their position. And they're all afraid Blunkett is going to succeed like no other education minister before him.
Steve, UK

I must congratulate all children who are actually managing to learn something at school these days! This country is full of people who are all too ready to blame someone else and not take responsibility for their part in educating them (the children). All parties involved (i.e. parents, teachers and the government) must pull hand in hand to give their children the best education possible.
Jim, England


I love working with children but I hate what the present system is doing to them

Iona Edwards, Wales
Primary school children are not given the chance to develop essential skills such as self-expression, listening to others, courtesy, independence of thought and action, mutual respect, appreciation of the wonders of the world around them etc. Why? Because we teachers have to keep their noses to the grindstone 5 hours a day in order to fulfil a totally unrealistic curriculum. I love working with children but I hate what the present system is doing to them. I worry what sort of future generation we are churning out. I don't even have time to talk and listen to them as individuals. (Oops! Is that a trendy idea?)
Iona Edwards, Wales

Woodhead and Blunkett actually agree on almost all aspects of educational policy. The tragedy is that neither came out clearly for what they believed, instead preferring to use hints. Tougher standards of discipline, an end to mixed ability teaching, an end to trendy teaching methods: the only way to get these through is by compulsion. All the testing in the world is a waste of time without these reforms.
Patrick, England

What Mr Woodhead and politicians of all hues should be pushing for is a French style administration office in each school which takes the bureaucracy off the teachers, leaving them free to do the job that we don't pay them enough to do. It is interesting to see the Budget debate on this website, where plenty of people are arguing for lower taxation, but it is this taxation that is needed to pay more to more teachers.
Will M, London, UK


There has been a disastrous cost in terms of emotional and social education as a result of this facile, arrogant and politically inspired initiative to raise standards of numeracy and literacy

Neil Primrose, UK
Mr Woodhead's claim that his great legacy is the literacy and numeracy initiative is vainglorious nonsense : ask any head of any secondary school in any city in the country what the behaviour of Year 7 and Year 8 pupils is like : they will tell you there has been a disastrous cost in terms of emotional and social education as a result of this facile, arrogant and politically inspired initiative to raise standards of numeracy and literacy. Knowing what a haiku or an adverb is has not improved the ability to write or express their ideas of the children who are the guinea pigs in this latest experiment.
Neil Primrose, UK

Mr Woodhead brings up the whole debate again of right and left wing principles. Right wingers firmly believing in innate disruptiveness and evilness of children, left wingers believing in innate intellectual curiosity and sociability. They are both right in that the different systems which they impose create the results expected but given this choice and there is such, I know which I would prefer.
Jonathan Adams, UK

Why is it that children that are being educated at home are between one and two years ahead of their peers at schools? Schools are becoming production lines for the market place. Those who are the customers, the children are rarely consulted; rarely taught to think for themselves. It's time that democracy came to school and teachers started to listen to children more. Children are basically dismpowered. Why are children segregated by age. It's a crazy system that encourages them to study French for 50mins; and then at the ring of the bell suddenly stop and go to study maths. It is totally artificial and is not really education at all. Testing,testing,testing that's all schools seem to do these days. More like a programme for robots.
Arthur Bond, UK

Woodhead is out of touch, the government too. Teachers are not allowed to teach, but there is an alternative: home schooling-I don't want to torture my children with tests but enable them to grow, to become responsible adults.
Colin, England

If standards are rising why is it so difficult to recruit school leavers? Most seem to be illiterate, inarticulate and lack the discipline to actually work unsupervised. Graduates aren't much better ... none seem to realise that ultimately their jobs are about creating a surplus (profit) over their costs for their employer.
William Lack, England

What has Woodhead done to deserve such vitriol? All he's doing is bringing to the attention of the general public the duplicity of the Government's education "initiatives", and the deplorable standards shown by SOME teachers. Of course, the teaching profession can do no evil - in the eyes of the teaching profession, that is.
Adrian, UK


Politicians are the problem

Jim, USA
Politicians are the problem. I've seen this in several countries. They keep coming up with different ideas, never giving the previous scheme time to work. Let the teachers do their job and keep politics out of it.
Jim, USA

From my personal experience, teachers today are no longer given the breathing space to focus on their students; they are too busy fulfilling the requirements of the national curriculum. It is this, and this alone, which has caused the fall in standards and the recruitment problems in schools today.
Richard, UK

One of Labour's greatest failures in education policy was in renewing Woodhead's contract. If they had let him go two years ago they would have set the educational agenda. Now he has been able to resign just in time to be making right wing pronouncements with the appearance of being well informed, just before the general election. If Blunkett had acted quickly to remove him, by now his opinions would be either an irrelevance or just sour grapes.
Nick Gunning, UK

Chris Woodhead is my hero. I was failed by the education system in the 60's in this country which experimented to the extent that my class wasn't literate or numerate at the age of 11. Education is the most fundamental foundation of a prosperous, civilised society. Reinstate Chris!
Jon Wood, UK

I don't know what Woodhead is on about. My kids are getting a great education in a happy school where all the staff are highly professional and committed to their jobs (and their pupils). None of my colleagues or friends are complaining of "betrayal" of their children - on the contrary, things generally seem to be rather better than they were 4 years ago.
John, UK

If Sean Will thinks that teaching is such an easy 'part-time' job with such long holidays, why isn't he doing it? He also is under the impression that education is an 'industry' - a strange definition.
Derek, UK

Woodhead's claim that his great legacy is the literacy and numeracy initiative is vainglorious nonsense. Ask any head of any secondary school in any city in the country what the behaviour of Year 7 and Year 8 pupils is like: they will tell you there has been a disastrous cost in terms of emotional and social education as a result of this facile, arrogant and politically inspired initiative to raise standards of numeracy and literacy. Knowing what a haiku or an adverb is has not improved the ability to write or express their ideas of the children who are the guinea pigs in this latest experiment.
Neil Primrose, UK


As a teacher of 21 years experience I believe Labour has made matters much worse. They are destroying all traces of the comprehensive system of education and genuine equal opportunities for all - for that they should never be forgiven.

Liam Conway, Nottingham, England

From my personal experience, teachers today are no longer given the breathing space to focus on their students; they are too busy fulfilling the requirements of the national curriculum. It is this, and this alone, which has caused the fall in standards and the recruitment problems in schools today.
Richard, UK

I believe that UK schools are at the heart of a social implosion - I really don't think that schools can survive in their current form. They need to be cut in size by at least half if not more and restaffed with people who don't regard our children as "them".
Liz, UK

The Government, Chris Woodhead and Ofsted have done more to raise standards in the last five years. It's about time failing schools and failing teachers are identified and dealt with. Look at the positive aspects, which other profession has 12 weeks holiday a year and a guaranteed job for life ? It's just a shame that Chris is trying to score political browny points now.
Richard Matt, UK

Only one person is hated more in our schools than Woodhead - Blunkett! Blunkett says its wrong to say Labour has made no difference. I can certainly agree with him there. As a teacher of 21 years experience I believe Labour has made matters much worse. They are destroying all traces of the comprehensive system of education and genuine equal opportunities for all - for that they should never be forgiven.
Liam Conway, Nottingham, England

If standards are rising why is it so difficult to recruit school leavers?? Most seem to be illiterate, inarticulate and lack the discipline to actually work unsupervised. Graduates aren't much better... none seem to realise that ultimately their jobs are about creating a surplus (profit) over their costs for their employer. Just what does Media Studies qualify you for?
William Lack, England

We betrayed the children decades ago when we started scrapping grammar schools and the progressives took over education. Until the education properly recognises all the different and different types of abilities children have, our schools are going to keep churning out mediocrity on a grand scale.
Richard, England


No matter how much politicians bluster and pose the fact is the education is failing our children

Dave, UK
Like so many of this Government's "policies" the New Labour approach to education seems to be more about sound bites and spin than effectiveness and substance. Mr Woodhead although working to his own agenda (he has recently taken a consultancy job), was party to this and is now sharing his experiences with the public at large. No matter how much politicians bluster and pose the fact is the education is failing our children. Surely it is time someone engendered real debate away from party political considerations for the sake of our children. Hopefully Mr Woodhead can kick start this process.
Dave, UK

Why is education always a political issue? It is about time politicians stopped scoring points and worked together to bring a sensible and workable solution. Constant experiments are useless and usually cause more problems. Concentrate on the basics and let education professionals decide on a suitable approach.
Neil Small, Scotland

I am certain that much of the blame for the current teacher shortage should be put at the door of the previous Conservative governments and of Chris Woodhead. Like the Poll Tax, the theories behind the National Curriculum, Standard Assessment Tests and Ofsted inspections may be sound, but their execution into operational systems has been appalling mainly due to an unwillingness on the part of Government to put the proper level of resources into the schools themselves to promote success.

It takes anything up to four years to produce a teacher trained to face a class of pupils, roughly the length of time that the present Government has been in office. Who would want to enter a profession which has been so denigrated and subject to such abuse as teaching. Most graduates can find other opportunities much more financially rewarding and with higher ratings in terms of public perception. From my immediate friend and family circle I know of five teachers who have left for other careers and two others who into their final undergraduate year were planning to go into teaching but were deterred by the conditions that exist in terms of pay and working conditions.
Rupert Edwards, United Kingdom

As a parent and a taxpayer, I can only state that Chris Woodhead is my hero. He has done more to raise standards in schools than anyone else in the last twenty years. It's a shame that he felt his conscience would no longer allow him to continue in his job. I worry for the future of education without his commitment, energy, vision and courage. Here is a man of integrity and there are few of them in public office.
Gillie Guy, UK

My girlfriend is a primary school teacher, and I wish she did the same hours as me! She's in work by 8 (same time the caretaker gets in to open up). Prepares from 8 till 9, teaches 9 till 3:15 with a 5 minute lunch break. There's then tidying up from 3:15 until 4 or 5pm. Most weeks, there's a staff meeting or similar that goes on far after 5pm. She does a 12-hour day, easily. She then spends one day at the weekend doing more planning and lesson preparation, more often than not with my help on the computer, printing material out for her (and this is paid for by her, not the school!).

The much-vaunted 3 months worth of holidays people say teachers get is also nonsense. In addition to this, this last 6 months or so, she's had to do something called Capita - an IT training course - all done unpaid, in their own time. All teachers should know how to use IT to improve lessons, but here's the rub - no-one is allowed to teach them how to use the PC in the 1st place. They suggest going on evening classes to find out how to use them - again, unpaid, on their own time, and they have to pay for it themselves.
Peter Smith, Wales


Politicians are good at talking but poor in delivering their promises

Ray Levy, England
Many parents of young children are aware that Blair has not lived up to his promises made prior to the 1997 general election. His stated priority of "education, education, education, have proved to be meaningless and false. The morale of teachers is such that they are leaving the profession in droves. Many schools are so short of qualified teachers that they are forced to curtail the teaching of some subjects to some students. This is certainly occurring in Kent schools. There are also cases of where schools are compelled to operate on a four-day week. The nub of the problem is that politicians are good at talking but poor in delivering their promises. All political parties are equally guilty. In my opinion, the professionals in the education service should be allowed to operate without having to put up with constant interference from outsiders, who like Davis Blunkett, lack the intimate knowledge and experience to "know best".
Ray Levy, England

Teaching the 3Rs; being socially inclusive but not as a politically correct objective; having teachers teach instead of spend 30% of their time completing progress reports; spending education money on children acquiring knowledge instead of LEAs; trailing "new methods" and not blanket inflicting them on suffering schools; shutting down failing schools; introducing discipline, discipline, discipline discipline until the pips squeak etc. For example the London Oratory School!.
Brian Singleton, Derbyshire, England

I worked as a Physics teacher in UK schools for 13 years, both in the state and independent sector. In my opinion, any improvements Chris Woodhead and Ofsted achieved were brought about by fear of redundancy and at the cost of any remaining staff morale. Having within a single year been inspected by OFSTED and HMI in different schools, the contrast couldn't have been greater. Ofsted's remit, under Mr Woodhead, has always been entirely negative, demoralising and de-motivating. If I treated pupils in this manner I would be ashamed to be a teacher. HMI is an advisory and inspection service - strangely enough what we used to have before the jackboot of Ofsted.

Britain has some of the best teachers in the world but all too often they are ground down by pointless rules, unproductive form-filling and petty bureaucracy. I finally grew sick of the whole situation in state education in the UK and emigrated here to New Zealand a few months ago. I'm happy to say that I am enjoying myself immensely teaching physics in an atmosphere where I am left alone to actually teach the students.
Mark Simpson, New Zealand

Strange it took him so long to complain. If he was so concerned about education for all why did he not speak out against the greatest obstacles to this, i.e. the abolition of the student grant, tuition fees, lack of discipline/truancy and the means to enforce them, low morale and wages and chronic long-term under-investment in the education system.
Tony Vose, England

Teachers need respect from society the same way that doctors, nurses, police, fire-fighters and dare-I-say, politicians deserve. There are certain professions that participants choose more because it's their vocation-in-life, than any other ideas of financial gain or career status. Of all such professions, education stands-out as the one that regulates far-future civil harmony and economic success. The care and development of our children today ensures a crime-free, healthy and prosperous tomorrow.

From my personal experience, teachers today are no longer given the breathing space to focus on their students; they are too busy fulfilling the requirements of the national curriculum. It is this, and this alone, which has caused the fall in standards and the recruitment problems in schools today.
Richard, UK

Between Blair, Blunkett and Woodhead, they have managed to completely demoralise our schools. For Woodhead to criticise Blunkett is like the pot calling the kettle black. They have both destroyed education through initiatives, paperwork and politics. No one listens to the teachers, the attitude is that they are to be the recipients of blame for the failings of their experimental masters.
Phil, UK


Our political leaders can see no further than the voting booth

Roy Chapman, UK
Teachers and nurses remain Britains sacred cows. Every time someone stands up and says anything against these professions the liberal-minded classes shout out in horror. Is it any wonder that education and health in this country rates so badly. Teachers, and nurses for that matter, are human. There are good and there are bad teachers. Until the liberal elite realise this basic fact their continued attempts to prevent any serious debate on education will leave the system in the state that it is. I have had experience of the school systems in Luxembourg and Germany (both of which teach traditionally and have selective secondary schools) and I know where I would prefer to have my kids educated. Sadly our political leaders can see no further than the voting booth.
Roy Chapman, UK

I found Chris Woodhead's comments appalling, he has had more to do with the current levels of paperwork in schools than anyone. I'm married to a teacher and I have witnessed the levels of moral going down and down, due to excessive paperwork, increased prescription and Ofsted inspections all of which Woodhead has a high level of responsibility for. As for people like Sean who think teachers have it easy my wife gets into school at 8:00am and leaves at 5:00pm often brings work home, and spends a large proportion of the holidays planning for the next term. She works longer hours than most people I know.
Steve Shadbolt, UK

I think the education system in this country has been on the decline for sometime now and not only under one government. Education doesn't seem to include reading, writing or mathematics any longer! Why don't we let the teachers get back to teaching and allow the pupils learn instead of spending countless hours on taking tests, marking tests and other mindless form filling. Perhaps the hypocrite Chris Woodhead should look back at how he has systematically ruined the education system with his own idiotic ideals and now he is trying to cover up and pass the blame.
Sue, UK

Of course Chris Woodhead was right. Education has been in a bad way for decades Back in the 60's, I sent both my children to private schools for just this reason. I couldn't trust the 60's comprehensive philosophy. I really do believe all education should be privatised for the good of all. If we had an American healthcare type of scheme called "Educare" it would solve a lot problems.
Mr Harry Wentworth, Devonshire, England

Labour only has itself to blame for keeping Woodhead in his position when they came to power. Here is a man who is deliberately controversial in order to get himself noticed. As a parent I can say that the standard of teaching and schools has improved noticeably in my area (Bath) in the past 3 years.
Nick T, UK


Nothing matches the teaching profession for pointless paperwork and bureaucracy

Michael, UK
Having worked in both teaching and other professions in the private sector I can assure the likes of Sean Will that nothing matches the teaching profession for pointless paperwork and bureaucracy - much of it set by the likes of Mr Woodhead. On the issue of falling standards, 7 million adults in the UK are considered fundamentally illiterate (govt. figures) and would fail the current English test for 11 year olds (70% of 11 year old pass). So when was this golden age in education?
Michael, UK

The teachers deserve our full support and praise for the jobs that they are doing, and I suspect that many of the critics would not get out of bed in the morning for the amount of money they are paid. I have no sympathy whatsoever for someone who leaves a post such as Mr Woodhead's and then comes out with such totally negative drivel. Sure, things in schools are not perfect, but let's praise what has been achieved.
Mick Oldham, London

The Labour Governments of the '60s created this mess in their effort to level down the population. After all you can't control a thinking, educated person and their policies do not stand up to intelligent examination. The bit that I find interesting is that these same politicians intended their heirs to hold power by sending them to 'proper' schools away from the rif raf and the low achievers that their system created. This has carried on. Ask the simple question - where did the Blairs, Harmans etc send their children and why?
John, France

By his recent tantrum, Woodhead has helped teachers. He has given them an example if they ever want to teach children about sour grapes.
Graham, Scotland

Chris Woodhead is quite right in his criticism. Those of us who are members of LEAs have seen first hand the mountain of garbage which has come forth from this most inadequate of Governments. Roll on the election!
David R, UK


When exactly did it become right wing to want children to be stretched at school and to leave with knowledge and skills?

Martin Barrett, UK
When exactly did it become right wing to want children to be stretched at school and to leave with knowledge and skills? It is interesting to look at the current Labour front bench and note that no-one there seems to have benefited from a "child-centred approach".
Martin Barrett, UK

It was because of successive governments changing the way our children are educated that we decided to opt for an independent school for our children. We are not "Posh and well off" both my husband and I work to pay for this education which should be the right of every child from the state. Government should stop interfering with the curriculum and setting ridiculous tests for young children and let the teachers get on with their jobs and what they trained for.
Fiona, UK

The reaction to the article by the government is a prime example of "shoot the messenger." Mr Woodhead has his faults, but for Labour to pretend that they have made a difference in schools is nonsense. He may be arrogant and insensitive, but he still is right: schools still generally do not produce the results that children and society should expect
Mark, UK


The man is little more than a self publicist who seems to delight in taking a contrary position to whatever the prevailing opinion is

Bill, UK
Chris Woodhead appears to have his own agenda, the man is little more than a self publicist who seems to delight in taking a contrary position to whatever the prevailing opinion is. Perhaps Labour haven't improved our schools as much as they might have thus far but I'd sooner trust them to preside over our children's education than a man I'd not trust within a mile of my daughter.
Bill, UK

I have to agree with him. Why do people always stick up for teachers. These are people who are part time (9:00-3:30) and have more holidays than you can shake a stick at. What the industry needs is person like Mr Woodhead who can stand up to them.
Sean Will, UK


For years he sat at OFSTED and produced silly regulations, questioned the professionalism of teachers, produced stupid forms to fill in, and generally demoralised the state of education in this country

Dave Hartley, Birmingham, UK
I think it is about time Mr Woodhead was brought to task. As a school governor myself, I know that for years he sat at OFSTED and produced silly regulations, questioned the professionalism of teachers, produced stupid forms to fill in, and generally demoralised the state of education in this country. That's when his Ofsted staff weren't driving teachers to commit suicide.
Dave Hartley, Birmingham, UK

Of course Woodhead is right to speak out and of course it's inevitable that the New Labour establishment are uneasy about his words - because they are true. What the PM's spokesman derides as 'bog standard comprehensives' aren't there to educate but to give the illusion of education. If it were anything else, the government would be happy to sack 'bog standard' teachers. This government has done nothing for schools except increase bureaucracy and get rid of outside toilets. Hardly a recipe for a highly skilled workforce, is it?
James B, UK

Chris Woodhead has acted to spell out what a lot of parents already suspect and that is that education system is not being reformed as quickly as this government promised and a lot of their initiatives are headline grabbing gimmicks. After all, he is the person most qualified to write about our education system so it is no surprise that the Government moves very quickly to discredit him. We have teaching shortages and PRP ended up as a loyalty scheme rather than rewarding performance. I've watched and been deeply concerned at the erosion of free education in this country. This government has also sniped at selective grammar schools and abolished the assisted places scheme in a fit of class envy. The hypocrisy that many of the cabinet went through these educational routes and some have sent their children to these schools is breathtaking. That sounds to me like a betrayal of a generation and I agree wholeheartedly with Chris Woodhead.
Michael Thomas, UK

Mr Woodhead's philosophy was ill-founded and his delivery was crass - if he had been judged by similar performance criteria to those that he espoused for the teaching profession, then he should have been out of his job far sooner.
Robert Crosby, UK


The Department of Education should be set free to oversee teaching and introduce considered changes on the basis of proper research, not political whims and untried theories

Brian W, U K
The time has come to take education out of the political arena. For years the schools have been used for experiments in social engineering. Selection has been abolished, now to be re-introduced. National curriculum have been introduced, then modified. Examination systems have been changed so that comparison of standards with the past become difficult, whilst University entrants require remedial teaching or extended courses. The Department of Education should be set free to oversee teaching and introduce considered changes on the basis of proper research, not political whims and untried theories.
Brian W, U K

Chris Woodhead is typical of those arrogant, right-wingers who always think they are right and everybody else is wrong. Why Tony Blair did not get rid of him at the earliest opportunity I will never know.
Dan, UK

Chris Woodhead only resigned a few months ago. Presumably, he was perfectly happy with HIS system prior to Christmas! Why the sudden change of heart?
Dave Hartley, Birmingham, UK

For someone who can't multiply fractions Mr. Woodhead is very sure of his own opinions.
Mark, UK

What I want to know is why are my children being sacrificed to an education system which is based on narrow and unrepresentative testing rather than being concerned with their development as individuals? This is as much the responsibility of Ofsted as it is of the Government, and together these two have transformed our schools into test factories. Much against the views of a high proportion of the teachers I have talked to schools have been forced to focus on tests and not on the pupils.
Gerald Taylor, Wales

I grew up in Zimbabwe where corporate punishment was standard practice - it did me the world of good and I would not be where I am today if it had not been for it. Until some form of discipline is returned to schooling in the UK children will rebel more and more. This has to be the root of many problems.
Nick B, UK

I object to my grandchildren being used as an educational experiment. Instead of giving them a good basic education which makes them able to read and write, they have to cram for exams to pass at 7! This is nothing short of lunacy. Children are individuals and develop at different rates. Surely we aren't going to give children a complex at this early stage in their lives if they don't do as well as their friends.
Wendy , UK


I find Chris Woodhead bizarre

Guy Chapman, UK
I find Chris Woodhead bizarre. He criticises Labour for not doing enough, despite huge increases in investment in education, but he is prepared to support the Tory party which apparently believes that the best way to improve state education is to encourage all the best students to pay for private schooling. It is clear to me as a parent that state education has improved significantly in the last three years.
Guy Chapman, UK

Mr Woodhead is right. Labour has betrayed the people with so many of their promises. Education Education Education ! With Labour it has been Failure Failure Failure.
John P. Glasgow, luton

New Labour should not be too surprised that a bogey-man they helped to create has now come back to haunt them. All Chris Woodhead saw was failure, never success. Mind you, isn't good to see Blair and Blunket receive some of their own medicine they themselves were so eager to dish out to others.
Mac, Scotland

Chris Woodhead, didn't complain when he was in charge and the schools were failing. This stinks of a Tory agenda.
M, UK


Those of you who think all he did was to demoralise the teaching profession are so out of touch with how badly the teaching doctrines of the last 30 years have been

Freddie, UK
Those of you who think all he did was to demoralise the teaching profession are so out of touch with how badly the teaching doctrines of the last 30 years have been. He has consistently tried to bring standards up by highlighting the absurdity that is the Education Establishment. And as for the Labour party, I can't remember a more bankrupt and failed group of individuals!
Freddie, UK

I find the timing and the nature of Mr Woodhead's comments disappointing. The Government and David Blunkett in particular should be praised for the way they accepted the benefits of the OFSTED "approach" to assessment when they entered Government and the strategy they recently outlined on driving standards in secondary schools higher by moving away from the traditional "one size fits all" comprehensive. Mr Woodhead does himself and his reputation a disservice by the nature of his comments today
Russell Hardy, UK

Chris Woodhead deserves credit for identifying much of what is wrong with our education. I don't think he was knocking teachers as such but the system in general. He identified the problem of declining standards caused by 'child-centred' learning and a lack of academic rigour. The Plowden Report of 1967 has blighted the education of successive generations of schoolchildren. It's misguided conclusions have been the depressing educational orthodoxy for over 30 years. Something must be very wrong when many university graduates, our so-called academic elite, are found to be semi-literate or semi-numerate. To combat the prevailing educational orthodoxy, we need to strip out the 'dead wood' from many of our educational establishments. We need a purge at the teachers training colleges, the institutes of education, the DFEE etc in order to uproot the egalitarians and philistines from their hold on the 'commanding heights of education' We are sitting on the edge of a volcano.
Keith, England

As a State School Governor, the key failings of State Education are easy to see - and they're not associated with Woodhead or OFSTED. Of course they have upset us, Governors and Staff alike. But the rules under which they were forced to work precluded them from doing anything else. OFSTED Inspectors may only report what they find - they cannot offer advice, unlike the work of HMI. This proscription of OFSTED typifies the UK State System for Education. Add to that the avalanches of paper, the mind-boggling bureaucracy, the serious under funding over many years - the wonder is that anyone still wants to serve in Education at all.
Derek Thornton, England


The only person letting people down is Mr Woodhead

Paul Steven, Scotland
The only person letting people down is Mr Woodhead. He is letting down teachers who have worked magnificently to improve educational standards and, even more despicably, he is letting down the schoolchildren who struggled to learn during this period. I have never seen a public servant so willing to claim all the credit for any improvement and at the same time decry everything that had been done.
Paul Steven, Scotland

Mr Woodhead seems to believe that he is the only one with all the answers and everyone else is in the wrong. It's a little hard to see the justification for this. Teachers almost universally saw his style as confrontational and unhelpful. The politicians he beguiled into his view of education (often with second-hand ideas that others were putting into practice anyhow) were evidently doing it all wrong. It will be interesting to see whether history judges him as a reformer or as an opinionated windbag. I know which I'd bet on.
Malcolm Davies, UK

State schools are used by the Government as daytime detention centres for feral youth. These yobs disrupt the education of others, divert scarce resources and demoralise teachers. But, bizarrely, Blunkett does not want such children excluded. We should abolish compulsory education, and allow schools to educate those kids who actually want to be there.
David, UK

Why did the Labour Government retain him in the first place? It wouldn't have taken a crystal ball to foresee this.
Brian, Scotland


His views were frank, very clear and open

HVN, UK
I do not think Chris Woodhead was pursuing a Conservative agenda because he was all too willing to talk about failure in the education system. His views were frank, very clear and open. This is unlike most of our politicians. I would describe him as fairly liberal or libertarian.
HVN, UK

Chris Woodhead and Ofsted have presided over the single most demoralising and distracting exercise ever inflicted upon the teaching profession. The time and resources drained by the production of glossy brochures to appease Ofsted inspectors is the single biggest complaint I have heard from the many teachers that I know. In this respect, Woodhead's comments expose an astonishing ignorance of the reasons for his unpopularity and his self-belief suggests a worrying degree of egotism. The DfEE is better off for his departure.
M. Moran, UK

It's not just this Government but successive ones over many years who have let standards slip in both the educational and disciplinary sides of schooling. We need to make GCSEs the same standard as the old O Level, instead of that of the old 11+ and re-introduce corporal punishment to control the youth of today. Only then will a government really have not betrayed young people and everyone else with its educational policies and standards.
Bruce, UK

I don't suppose Mr Woodhead is just missing the public forum he was used to in his previous job - maybe he is feeling lonely without it!
Pauline, Scotland

Never mind school children. The entire country has been betrayed by the yawning abyss between New Labour rhetoric and reality. In case nobody noticed, kids these days are getting ever less able to show any signs of intelligence. The Dome was a disaster, transport is a fiasco and the NHS is a shambles. When I was at school the buildings were run down but at least disruptive pupils could be (and were) removed.
Karl Peters, UK


At least Labour seem to have grasped the nettle

Brian, UK
Tory appointee, writing for Tory paper, election imminent, what do you expect? 18 years of immediate neglect, coupled with 50 years of long term indifference to the role of education in the nation's prosperity is not going to be undone in a couple of years. At least Labour seem to have grasped the nettle.
Brian, UK

Some 12 years ago I recall seeing a GCSE lower-level maths paper. The questions would be an insult to an average 10-year old, and yet a 16-year-old could gain a qualification by correctly answering less than half of them. Alas, generations of children are being betrayed by a system that is strong on social engineering and inclusion of disruptive minorities at all costs, and pitifully weak at focussing on the needs and rights of the majority.
John B, UK

It isn't just in schools. University education is becoming increasingly utilitarian too. The Government seems to act faster to satisfy calls from the Institute of Directors et al for potential employees with better "key skills" than it does to the concerns of educators. Is education merely a tool for getting a job? The Government has no soul and wishes to deprive its people of the spirit that a good education can nourish.
Duncan Drury, London, UK

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Education
The man teachers love to hate
02 Nov 00 | Education
Schools watchdog Woodhead resigns
03 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Woodhead a political time bomb
09 Feb 01 | Mike Baker
A new inspector calls
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