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The BBC's Mike Baker
"Ministers..hope that any future criticism will have less impact"
 real 56k

Education Secretary, David Blunkett
"There are contradictions here which are very, very strange"
 real 28k

Labour MP, Barry Sheerman
"I want to know why Mr Woodhead changed his mind"
 real 28k

Chris Woodhead
"I couldn't stomach what I saw as...a waste of taxpayer's money"
 real 28k

Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 17:09 GMT
Hague asked about Woodhead meetings
education select committee
Mr Woodhead's last meeting with MPs was "robust"
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.

barry sheerman
Barry Sheerman: Questions
Labour MP Barry Sheerman said there were "rumours" of meetings and he had written to Mr Hague to ask for a list of dates and details of conversations they may have had.

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.

Tory backing

"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.

Theresa May
Theresa May: Accusation of government "spin"
There was no immediate comment from the Conservative Party.

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.

I'm very sorry indeed that Chris has chosen to abuse us in this way

David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett said the former chief inspector, who stood down three months ago, had diminished his credibility with "personal abuse and vitriol".

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."

'Teachers' strike'

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.

Wider reaction

phil willis mp
Phil Willis: "Predictable" attack by Woodhead
The Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Phil Willis, said the "all-too-predictable" attack had lost Mr Woodhead any last vestiges of respect.

"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."

He too often put forward his own opinions, unsupported by the solid evidence of inspection

Head teachers' leader John Dunford
The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Peter Smith, said that when Chris Woodhead had been chief inspector he had boasted about his independence.

"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."

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Is Crhis Woodhead right about the government's education policies? Have your say.Schools furore
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See also:

01 Mar 01 | Education
Woodhead savages Labour's policies
01 Nov 00 | Education
Woodhead spars with MPs
02 Nov 00 | Education
Schools watchdog Woodhead resigns
02 Nov 00 | Education
The man teachers love to hate
11 Nov 00 | Education
Woodhead delivers parting shot
03 Nov 00 | Education
Woodhead wants freedom to speak out
03 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Woodhead a political time bomb
09 Feb 01 | Mike Baker
A new inspector calls
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