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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 19:39 GMT
The man teachers love to hate
Chris Woodhead
Chris Woodhead: No stranger to media attention
Chris Woodhead has been a controversial figure that teachers love to hate since he was first appointed Chief Inspector of Schools in England in 1994.

A former teacher himself, he was seen by many to be the right man for the job.

But his forthright opinions on all matters educational - including those considered by his critics to be well outside Ofsted's remit - won him many enemies.

Teachers have repeatedly called for his resignation, and now they have got their wish.

Affair with former pupil

The biggest furore to erupt involving Mr Woodhead, 54, was undoubtedly the revelation that he had an affair with a former pupil in the 1970s.

Both denied the claims, saying their relationship had started six months after she had left the school, and when he was no longer teaching there.

But Mr Woodhead's ex-wife told a newspaper that the affair had begun while both Mr Woodhead and the student were still at the school.

She said she had decided to speak out after her ex-husband told students in January that relationships between teachers and their pupils could be "educative".

Mr Woodhead survived the uproar the revelation sparked, but blamed the unwanted attention it attracted for the break-up of his relationship with a primary school head teacher.

'Incompetent' teachers

The previous year, he had come under fire when he was re-appointed by the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, with a 34% pay rise.

By then he was already a figure of hate for some for his headline-grabbing assaults on poor teachers, badly-run schools and lacklustre council education departments.

Chris Woodhead
Chris Woodhead has often voiced outspoken opinions
His famous call for school governing bodies across the land to sack 15,000 "incompetent" staff caused palpitations at the headquarters of the National Union of Teachers.

Supporters say his refusal to pull punches when school children are being badly let down has made him unpopular with the vested interests of the educational establishment.

Critics argue that he demoralises the teaching profession by highlighting negative aspects of the education system, while only paying lip service to the many good things happening in England's schools.

'Vacuous' degrees

In the last couple of years, Mr Woodhead has repeatedly come under fire for his views on an ever-increasing ranging of topics.

He angered many people by accusing universities of devaluing higher education by offering "vacuous" degrees - in subjects such as pig enterprise management.

He also upset thousands of students and lecturers by citing a degree course in media studies as being a one-way ticket to the dole queue.

Other opinions for which he has been slated included his view that teenagers who were not academically inclined might be better off training for a vocation such as plumbing.

He also called for A-levels to be made harder, attacking a system, he said, in which every year exam results were expected to rise and which could not accept failure.

On Wednesday, Mr Woodhead clashed with MPs, and was criticised for being offensive to a member of the commons education select committee.

The committee had been questioning his outspoken opinions.

During the ill-tempered exchanges, he rejected the suggestion that Ofsted needed a board to oversee its work and make it more accountable.

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Education
Schools watchdog Woodhead resigns
01 Nov 00 | Education
Woodhead spars with MPs
08 Mar 99 | Education
Woodhead under pressure over affair
19 Sep 98 | Education
Blunkett defends Woodhead's 34% rise
14 Aug 00 | Education
Woodhead defends degree criticisms
04 Sep 00 | Education
Woodhead wants harder A-levels
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