`Trendy' Woodhead exposed by pupil

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The Independent Online
FRAN ABRAMS

Trendy teachers do not usually expect to be condemned by delegates at union conferences. But the Chief Inspector of Schools was shown no mercy yesterday when he was exposed as a former progressive who used to talk to his pupils about abortion and sex before marriage.

Chris Woodhead, now famous for his criticisms of Sixties child-centred teaching methods, shunned the classics and discussed social issues in his lessons, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' conference was told.

In a letter read out to the conference, Nigel Marshall, a teacher at Varndean School in Brighton, East Sussex, described his English lessons at 14 with Mr Woodhead.

"He taught in an issue-based way about abortion, the miners and sex before marriage. We studied the classics through Stan Barstow - my mother thought all this was corrupt," he said. But he admitted that he had rather enjoyed the experience.

"I didn't mind because these were lessons to muck about in. It was a good laugh and we despised his efforts to be trendy."

Mr Woodhead began his career at Priory School in Shrewsbury in 1969. He went on to be deputy head of English at New-ent comprehensive, Gloucestershire, and head of English at Gordano School in Bristol.

Revelations of his progressive past have surfaced before, but he has swept them aside with the argument that he was simply reflecting the ideals of the age in which he himself was educated.

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