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Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 17:09 GMT
Hague asked about Woodhead meetings
The head of the Commons education select committee is demanding to know about any meetings the former chief inspector of England's schools, Chris Woodhead, has had with the Tory leader, William Hague.
His intervention follows a Daily Telegraph article by Chris Woodhead in which he was critical of Labour education policy, saying the government had "betrayed" a generation of children.
Mr Sheerman said he was "shocked" to read the article, which "bore no relation" to evidence he had given to the select committee in his role as the head of Ofsted
"On the occasions that we have interviewed him over the last two years he has come back with some pretty positive, indeed glowing reports about the future of standards in education," he said.
"Either he wasn't telling the truth in those sessions or something has happened to change his views.
"I believe that the Leader of the Opposition [Mr Hague] has a responsibility to give chapter and verse on this," he added.
Mr Sheerman said he would propose to the select committee when it met next week that it re-interview Mr Woodhead.
Earlier, the shadow education secretary, Theresa May, backed Mr Woodhead's attack, saying he had issued a "damning indictment".
It showed the government had not only failed to deliver on its education pledges but ministers were incapable of doing so, she said.
"Mr Woodhead has confirmed what most people suspected, that the government is more interested in spin and eye-catching headlines than addressing the real problems of severe teacher shortages and a system breaking under the weight of unnecessary bureaucracy."
Mr Woodhead has more than once denied that he might be in line for a Tory peerage, and has said that his comments are not party-political.
Blunkett attacks 'abuse'
Earlier, the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, hit back at Mr Woodhead's accusation that he had a depressing, narrow and "utterly misguided" attitude to education.
And the education secretary claimed many of the initiatives attacked by Mr Woodhead had been supported by him while in office.
"Together we didn't do a bad job," he said.
"I haven't transformed the education service yet in the way I would wish, but I have laid the foundations and I'm very sorry indeed that Chris has chosen to abuse us in this way."
He said Mr Woodhead had done a good job as chief inspector but was now "diminishing his credibility".
"Not least because so many of the things that he's now criticising he was in favour of or wanted to go further."
Mr Blunkett said Mr Woodhead had wanted to cut the pay of badly-performing teachers.
"We did have a disagreement about performance-related pay, because Chris said to me that true performance related pay involved cutting the pay of teachers, not simply increasing it and I said that was unacceptable," he said.
It would have led to a teacher's strike of "universal proportions".
Mr Woodhead said later this was untrue. He felt that performance pay should involve an annual appraisal with a bonus for good performance - he never suggested cutting basic pay.
"His love of polemic and self publicity, that did so much damage to the morale of the teaching profession, detracts from the very real criticisms of government policy," he said.
"He promoted himself as the architect of school improvement - praising the achievements of our schools in his last three annual reports - now he seeks to distance himself from the very policy he advocated.
"There is no doubt the plethora of DfEE initiatives have brought schools to breaking point but not once did he make criticisms of them in his reports - preferring to make headlines with attacks on teachers.
"Woodhead could have made a valuable contribution to the development of education policy. By taking an overt party-political position he has forfeited that opportunity."
"His current onslaught is, in reality, either an admission of cowardice or mere opportunism," he said.
"He can't have it both ways. If any one person was responsible for the endemic low morale of the teaching profession it was Woodhead himself.
"His current stance is no more than nauseating cant."
'Part of the problem'
And the leader of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, said Chris Woodhead had been part of the problem, not the solution.
"Chris Woodhead was part of the policy-making process that he now criticises. This meant that the country no longer had an inspectorate that reported independently on the effects of government education policies," he said.
"My strongest criticism of Chris Woodhead as chief inspector was that he too often put forward his own opinions, unsupported by the solid evidence of inspection."
His attacks on teachers had contributed to the current recruitment difficulties.
The National Association of Head Teachers general secretary, David Hart, said: "He clearly hasn't read the opinion polls which put the government's education policy ahead of most others in terms of public approval.
"I think it is time that Chris Woodhead crawled away and retired with what's left of his dignity."
Are we betraying our children?
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A new inspector calls
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