Officials study affair dossier from Woodhead's ex-wife

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT confirmed yesterday that it was examining a legal dossier of evidence about claims that the Chief Inspector of Schools, Chris Woodhead, had an affair with a pupil while he was a teacher at her school.

Mr Woodhead's former wife, Cathy, submitted a series of documents to the Department for Education and Employment last week. The move follows her claims last month that Mr Woodhead had admitted to having an affair with a sixth-form pupil, Amanda Johnston, while he was a teacher at Gordano School near Bristol during the Seventies, something that Mr Woodhead strongly denies.

Former colleagues of the chief inspector have claimed that the affair was common knowledge at the school. But Mr Woodhead and Ms Johnston have made sworn statements that their relationship started only after both had left the school.

Mrs Woodhead said yesterday that she was considering legal action if the department did not initiate an investigation into her former husband's conduct. She said that in denying her version of events towards the end of their marriage, Mr Woodhead was calling her a liar.

"If suing Chris Woodhead is what it would take to get to the truth, I'm prepared to contemplate it," she said.

The divorce papers are said to include references to an affair between Mr Woodhead and a pupil. Mr Woodhead is said to have signed a statement saying that he did "not wish to disclose the name of the lady in question for professional reasons".

Yesterday the department said the statement did not form part of the dossier it had received from Mrs Woodhead. A spokeswoman said: "On initial examination there is nothing in the details of the papers we have which substantiate the story. We were sent some papers by Mrs Woodhead's lawyers last week and we are looking at those.

"We are not conducting an investigation... If people do have information they think we should have they are more than welcome to send it in."

Mr Woodhead said: "I have no comment to make on what my former wife wants to do. She must make up her own mind to do what she wants to do for herself."

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said that so far, he had been made aware of no evidence "that changes the situation or the position of Chris Woodhead. Angry and distraught recollections or notes made by a solicitor in the autumn of 1976 do not constitute a case for action or anything that could threaten Chris Woodhead's job," he said.

Mr Woodhead has been at the centre of controversy since The Independent revealed earlier this year that he had told trainee teachers that relationships between pupils could be "educative and experiential". Under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill passing through the Commons, teachers who have relationships with pupils aged 16 or 17 at their school face up to two years in jail.

n Figures due out today will counter criticism of the Government's class- sizes initiative, David Blunkett said. They will show continued progress towards the pledge to cut infant classes to 30, without a reduction in parental choice.