Woodhead: I will attack policies on schools

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The Independent Online

Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, yesterday confirmed ministers' worst fears when he made it clear that he had resigned from his job to attack Government policies.

Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, yesterday confirmed ministers' worst fears when he made it clear that he had resigned from his job to attack Government policies.

Both David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, and Tony Blair's Downing Street aides had made strenuous efforts to persuade Mr Woodhead to stop negotiating with two national newspapers, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

But Mr Woodhead yesterday promised to fully reveal his reservations with Government policy when he starts at the Telegraph in the New Year.

He said: "I want the opportunity to say what I think on education and a range of cultural and social issues. It is no secret that I have become increasingly frustrated with some aspects of current policy. I have found it increasingly hard to defend some aspects of current policy."

The chief inspector hinted at the tension between himself and Mr Blunkett. Asked if the education secretary wished him well, Mr Woodhead said: "He did say that. You will have to ask him if he meant it."

But he insisted that he was not leaving for party political reasons. He said: "I am not a Tory. I simply believe in children getting a decent education."

It had been known for months that he was looking for another post, and Mr Blunkett and Mr Blair were keen to stop Mr Woodhead joining a Conservative-leaning newspaper before the election.

Downing Street was anxious to head off the Mail which it believes supports Labour's education policies. Insiders argued his impact at the Telegraph would be less damaging as "they all vote Tory anyway".

Mr Blunkett called Mr Woodhead to a meeting to ask him about his plans. He tried repeatedly to persuade the chief inspector to stay in his job until after the election at a series of meetings over the past month, but Mr Woodhead was adamant.

His disagreements with Government policies include: the contents of the literacy hour, education action zones, vocational education and the expansion of higher education.

The Prime Minister had been exasperated by Mr Woodhead's outbursts, but saw him as a guarantee to middle England that the Government was not going soft on teachers.

Yesterday, the fightback began as Mr Blunkett insisted the drive to raise standards would go on. The Department for Education's message was that most Government education policies had little to do with Mr Woodhead and his departure would make no difference.

The view in Whitehall was that he resigned because he no longer wanted the job on political grounds. Mr Blunkett will try to keep Mr Woodhead's deputy, Mike Tomlinson, as "caretaker" head of the schools inspectorate until the next election.

Theresa May, the shadow Education Secretary, said: "This has left the Government's policies in ruins. They have been able to sit behind the comfort of Chris Woodhead at the helm of Ofsted.

"We are now going to see schools totally exposed to the policies of the Government."

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