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Saturday, February 6, 1999 Published at 11:42 GMT


Education

Pupil sex row deepens

Chris Woodhead: Tried subsequently to explain his remarks

What do you think? Should teachers be allowed to have sexual relationships with pupils? Click here to tell us your views.

A union leader says the chief inspector of schools in England may have to consider resigning over his comments about sexual relationships between teachers and students.


Education correspondent Mike Baker: "According to his press spokesman Mr Woodhead gave an off-the-cuff answer"
And another teachers' representative has likened Chris Woodhead to Glenn Hoddle, who lost his job after making unguarded comments about disabled people.

David Hart, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that "under no circumstances" should relationships between teachers and pupils be condoned and Mr Woodhead may have to think about his position.


David Hart: No-one can condone relationships between teachers and their students
Mr Woodhead addressed an audience of trainee teachers at Exeter University 10 days ago. He was asked his views on proposed legislation dealing with teachers who have relationships with their pupils.

The legislation would make it a criminal offence for teachers to have sexual relations with any pupil under 18.


[ image: David Hart: Comments put Mr Woodhead's position in question]
David Hart: Comments put Mr Woodhead's position in question
According to his press spokesman, Mr Woodhead gave an off-the-cuff answer.

In relation to teachers in a situation with pupils who were not minors, he allegedly said: "I don't think it is necessary that a teacher should be automatically drummed out of the profession.

"I think human beings can get themselves into messes and I think those messes can sometimes be experiential and educative on both sides."


Education Correspondent Mike Baker: Mr Woodhead felt he could not duck the question
In response to the criticism, Mr Woodhead defended his comments on Saturday.

"My motive was to reassure the student asking a question that I thought had a personal significance for him," he said.

Mr Woodhead added that he had thought his comments were off the record. "I didn't expect to have my comments broadcast in this way," he said.

"If I had known this was going to happen, I would have put it differently."

Varied opinions

The Hoddle File
General Secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, also criticised Mr Woodhead on Saturday.

"I am appalled," he said. "I think this is a bit of a Hoddle-ism, someone sounding off on a topic out of their own remit and getting into trouble for it."

Shadow Education Secretary David Willetts told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Mr Woodhead had made a "mistake" but that he was suprised he had used the word "educative".

Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said Mr Woodhead was "stupid" to have made his remarks.

She stressed that "serious consideration" must always be given to removing a teacher from the profession over a relationship with a pupil" but that "it should not be obligatory".

General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Doug McAvoy, did not express his personal opinion.

He said it was for the government to decide "whether he has answered this question as an individual or whether he is answering it in his capacity as chief inspector".

Emphasis on care

The importance of teachers exercising "great professional care" in their dealings with pupils was stressed by Ronnie Smith, General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country's largest teaching union.

An Ofsted spokesman said: "This was an off-the-cuff but honest reaction to a question that came up at the end of a question-and-answer session."

Mr Woodhead has made it clear he would not have any problem with the legislation banning sexual relations between teachers and pupils.

Teachers face potential jail terms of up to two years for "any sexual activity" with sixth-formers under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill which is currently before Parliament.


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