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Sunday, February 7, 1999 Published at 19:27 GMT


Education

Minister backs Woodhead

Chris Woodhead: Hopes not to be asked to resign

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

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, has given his backing to England's chief inspector of schools in the debate over teacher-pupil sexual relationships.

Mr Blunkett said the Ofsted head, Chris Woodhead, would continue to make "a very important contribution".

"Despite what Chris Woodhead has acknowledged to be an unfortunate incident, I believe it does not prevent him from continuing to do his job effectively," he said.

After speaking to the education secretary, he promised to be more careful about what he said in future.

"Clearly I recognise that anybody who occupies a high-profile job has to be extremely careful these days," he told BBC Radio 4's The Westminster Hour.

"Whatever one says, it appears, in any context, however private one thought the context was ... you must assume it's going to be public. That means sometimes one has to be more circumspect than one otherwise would be."
Chris Woodhead: "I think I made a mistake"
Mr Woodhead told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme:"I think I made a mistake in what I said. I was asked a question about teacher-pupil relationships by a student and I thought their question had a personal edge to it.

"I sought to reassure that student and in doing that I gave people the impression that I condone inappropriate relationships."

He stressed that the comments did not reflect his actual views.

Relationships 'educative'

Mr Woodhead's comments suggesting that sexual relationships with teachers could be "educative" for pupils came in a session with almost 200 trainee teachers at the University of Exeter.

He told them the teachers involved should not automatically be "drummed out of the profession", comments at odds with government efforts to make relationships between teachers and pupils under 18 a criminal offence.

Mr Woodhead denied his remarks were connected with his affair with former pupil Amanda Johnson, now subject to renewed press scrutiny.

He said there had been nothing improper about their relationship.


Chris Woodhead: "You're open to public scrutiny"
"Some 20 years ago I had a nine-year relationship with an ex-pupil, a former pupil, and I think that's a very significant fact so to say that I had an affair with a pupil I was teaching is wrong," he said.

Ms Johnson, who had been a pupil of Mr Woodhead's at a school in Portishead, near Bristol, also denied they had done wrong.

She said: "I did have a relationship with Chris Woodhead some time after I had left school. I had had a job, been to the University of East Anglia and dropped out.

"It was a relationship of equals and was in no way improper."

'Question mark'

Earlier the Shadow Education Secretary, David Willetts, said Mr Woodhead had made a "mistake" in his comments.

"I think the use of the word 'educative' by Chris Woodhead was a mistake. I'm surprised he said that," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.


[ image: David Hart: Question mark over Mr Woodhead's position]
David Hart: Question mark over Mr Woodhead's position
David Hart, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said Mr Woodhead might have to consider his position.

"If he has made these remarks there must be a substantial question mark over his position," he told the BBC.

The Secondary Heads Association General Secretary, John Dunford, said: "I am appalled. 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."



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