Ministers stall over Woodhead successor

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The Independent Online

Ministers moved yesterday to delay the politically sensitive decision over the long-tern successor to Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, until after the next general election.

Ministers moved yesterday to delay the politically sensitive decision over the long-tern successor to Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, until after the next general election.

In a widely expected move, Mr Woodhead's deputy, Mike Tomlinson, was confirmed as the new chief for one year.

The news came as Mr Woodhead prepared to condemn standards at the London borough of Hackney. A report to be published today condemns "ineptitude and turmoil" at the east London authority, named yesterday as having some of the worst GCSE results in England.

Mr Tomlinson, currently director of inspection at the Office for Standards in Education, will take over as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools at the start of next month. David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said Mr Tomlinson would ensure that Ofsted remained rigorous, fair and independent while ministers had time to appoint "a first-class successor".

The decision will dampen political controversy over Mr Woodhead's successor in the run-up to the next election, at a time when the former chief inspector is likely to be a thorn in the side of Labour. Mr Woodhead, who resigned a fortnight ago, has already indicated that he will criticise the Government when he starts his new career as a commentator and consultant for The Daily Telegraph in March.

Mr Tomlinson is thought to be a more conciliatory figure than his outspoken predecessor, who repeatedly angered teachers with his trenchant criticisms of poor teaching.

The report on Hackney, which has been seen by The Independent, is highly critical of problems which led to the resignation of Elizabeth Reid, the chief education officer. It warns that hard-won progress cannot be sustained and calls for "radical change" in the authority.

It says: "The resignation of the director of education and her senior colleagues is the last in a series of crises resulting from the continuing ineptitude of the corporate management of the council. We do not believe that Hackney local education authority has the capacity to provide a secure, stable context for continuous educational improvement."

The report follows a highly critical report by the Audit Commission on the borough.

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