Plan by Woodhead to run private schools may be blocked because of sex remarks

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The Independent Online

Plans by Chris Woodhead, a former chief inspector of schools, to set up a network of independent schools may run into trouble because of his outspoken comments on sexual relationships between teachers and pupils.

Three years ago Mr Woodhead told student teachers at Exeter University that a sexual relationship between a teacher and a pupil "can sometimes be experiential and educative". The remark might be used to bar him from the register of those allowed to run schools, the Department for Education suggested yesterday.

Leaders of the National Union of Teachers said they doubted that many teachers would want to work in his schools because of attacks on them during his years as head of Ofsted, the education standards watchdog.

Mr Woodhead, whose book Class Wars is being published later this week, revealed yesterday that he was in talks with investors wanting to create a chain of schools. Interviewed on Breakfast with Frost on BBC1, he said: "This is an idea I'm pursuing, because survey after survey shows that parents want their children to be educated independently.

"I also believe that an expansion in independent education would create competition with the state sector and that competition would help drive up standards. If schools like the London Oratory [the Catholic secondary school chosen by the Prime Minister for his sons] can get such good results, then you must be able to provide high-quality education for less than the £7,000 a year charged by the independent day schools."

A source at the Department for Education said: "Mr Woodhead may have to prove his views on the relationship between pupils and teachers actually fall within the law."

Since 2000 it has been illegal for teachers to have sexual relations with pupils under 18.