Chalk Talk: Eton's head has the solution to the problem of 5,000 failing teachers


Whisper it not but I think I have found a role for those 5,000 head teachers that the new Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, says are not up to scratch.

It occurred to me while I was listening to Eton College headmaster Tony Little talking about leadership at an independent school seminar last year.

He said he always felt he had learnt more about what it takes to be a good head teacher while he was working with someone who was "hopeless".

In his darkest moments when he has severe misgivings as to whether he is up to the job, he consoles himself with the thought that he might be passing on tips about how not to do it to aspirant heads in his staff room.

There you have it, then: parade the 5,000 at the next conference of the National College for School Leadership – which trains the heads of the future – so all the wannabe heads learn the same lesson as Mr Little.

Evidence last week that the old saying "an ill wind blows no good" is untrue.

Among the the beneficiaries of the News of the World's decision to hack into Blair spin doctor Alastair Campbell's phones are the nation's comprehensive schools.

He has decided to give part of the pay-off he is receiving from News Group Newspapers to Comprehensive Future, the pressure group which campaigns for a secondary-school system that guarantees an equal chance to all children.

Of course, his partner, Fiona Millar, is one of the leading lights campaigning for comprehensive schools.

Alastair Campbell himself has also been a long-standing supporter of all-in schools. In fact, it is said that one of the decisions he had most trouble in defending when he was Tony Blair's press chief was his boss's decision to send his son Euan to the grant-maintained London Oratory School, for which Labour was in the throes of abolishing opt-out status.

Perhaps, though, it is best to gloss over the phrase invented during his reign at Downing Street – the one about the "bog-standard" comprehensive.

Maybe it can be reduced in the dustbin of history if Comprehensive Future is successful in its campaigning.