Woodhead quits to the delight of teachers' leaders

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The Independent Online

Chris Woodhead, the controversial chief inspector of schools, resigned last night. The man whose outspoken comments have made him the teachers' bogeyman shocked his political masters and the education world with his decision to leave when his contract has three years to run.

Chris Woodhead, the controversial chief inspector of schools, resigned last night. The man whose outspoken comments have made him the teachers' bogeyman shocked his political masters and the education world with his decision to leave when his contract has three years to run.

Since The Independent revealed 18 months ago that he had told an audience of student teachers that sex between a teacher and a sixth-former could be "experiential and educative", Mr Woodhead's sacking or resignation had been expected.

But, despite months of pressure after his ex-wife alleged he had had an affair with a sixth former at a school where he taught, he retained the backing of the Prime Minister. Mr Woodhead has maintained the relationship did not start until they both left the school.

Government sources made clear that his decision to leave his £125,000-a-year job was his own. Mr Woodhead will leave at the end of the month, and join The Daily Telegraph as a leader writer in the spring, as well as doing consultancy work.

Government insiders, some of whom have suspected Mr Woodhead's true sympathies lie with the Conservatives, said they were not surprised by the move. One said: "At least at the Telegraph he will be preaching to the converted."

Educationalists expressed satisfaction and relief at the departure of one of the most abrasive and controversial figures in the history of British education, who once said that 15,000 teachers should be sacked.

On Wednesday, Mr Woodhead clashed repeatedly withthe Commons Select Committee on Education. Barry Sheerman, its chairman, accused him of being "offensive", said he had shown poor judgement and that his conduct fell short of what was required.

Tony Blair and David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, thanked Mr Woodhead for six years as head of the Office for Standards in Education. The Conservatives said his decision was a blow to the drive to raise school standards.

In a resignation letter to Mr Blunkett, Mr Woodhead wrote: "I have very much enjoyedmy time at Ofsted and I am proud to have been part of an organisation that has had such a positive impact on the education system. I think, however, the time has come for me to move on."

Union leaders could not contain their glee. Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Mr Woodhead did more than any other individual to damage morale in the teaching profession. He poisoned the educational atmosphere."

Mike Tomlinson, Mr Woodhead's deputy, will act as chief inspector until an appointment is made in the new year.

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