Professor Tim Brighouse, Birmingham's chief education officer, is to give up his post as joint vice-chairman of the Government's standards taskforce after a series of disagreements with Mr Woodhead, the other vice-chairman. His decision means further controversy for Mr Woodhead, whose ex-wife recently alleged he had an affair with a pupil while he was a teacher at a Bristol school. He denies the allegation.
Last night, Professor Brighouse said he wanted to devote more time to Birmingham and raising standards in inner-city schools. He denied he was resigning because of clashes with Mr Woodhead. But sources said he had decided to go because he believed his position alongside Mr Woodhouse had become untenable.
David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, appointed Professor Brighouse and Mr Woodhead to the taskforce soon after the general election. Teachers saw the former as their friend and the latter as their scourge. The two were meant to symbolise the twin policies of "pressure and support" which ministers have placed at the centre of their campaign to raise standards.
But the arrangement was always potentially explosive. When Ofsted inspected Birmingham local education authority, the two fell out over the report amid suggestions Mr Woodhead had inserted some critical passages. Mr Woodhead denied the allegation. Recently, Professor Brighouse gave a lengthy correspondence between the two during the inspection to the Commons Select Committee investigating Ofsted. He said he would be happy for it to be made public.
The Commons hearings have emphasised the differences between the two, with Professor Brighouse renewing his criticisms of Ofsted and Mr Woodhead attacking Professor Brighouse at a press briefing earlier this year.
Professor Brighouse said yesterday: "I have said to the secretary of state that at a [convenient] time I would like to withdraw from the standards taskforce. I am also withdrawing from membership of the taskforce on educational development and I have given up being a trustee of Education Extra. I need to devote a lot more time to Birmingham and inner-city education.
"Mr Woodhead and I have disagreed about almost everything but doubtless the disagreement has often proved creative. I'm sure I will continue to press for improvements in the inspection system which are slowly being made but which need to be accelerated."
Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The success of the taskforce depends on its personnel. The union welcomed the inclusion of Tim Brighouse. His resignation places a question mark over the ability of the taskforce to ensure a balanced analysis of the issues which are of immense significance to teachers and their pupils.
"The stature of Tim Brighouse and the support he gives to teachers in meeting the day-to-day difficulties of their job separates him from the self-chosen role of the chief inspector."
Ofsted said it had no comment to make.
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