Schools chief attacks progressive methods

The refusal of teachers to change their progressive notions is the biggest barrier to raising standards, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools said last night.

In a highly controversial lecture, the first to be delivered by the holder of his post, Chris Woodhead lambasted both teachers and academics for clinging to a professional culture that barred whole-class teaching and emphasised skills rather than facts.

Mr Woodhead, who began his job as head of the Office for Standards in Education last October, took his stand firmly beside traditionalists with his indictment of progressive teaching methods.

The Chief Inspector is independent of the Government and has declared views which will infuriate teachers, at a time when Gillian Shepherd, the Secretary of State for Education, is trying to placate them.

Teachers, he said, remained hostile to teaching the whole class rather than groups despite research showing that the former was often easier and more effective.

They rejected the idea that children should be taught facts about their cultural heritage and they were doctrinaire about child-centred learning. They thought wrongly that education had to be relevant to children's background and they believed skills were more important than knowledge.

Mr Woodhead, one of the authors three years ago of a government-commissioned report on primary education, said: "What too often we have is an emotional commitment to beliefs about the purposes and conduct of education which militates against any genuinely searching educational debate."

Primary teachers were always telling him, he said, that education was about the child, not the curriculum. That was a logical absurdity.

"Why anyone should suppose that a concern to identify which aspects of our cultural inheritance are worth teaching should necessarily imply the adoption of the most tedious teaching approaches, I don't understand. Some teachers simply reject out of hand any concept of education which seeks to define that which should be taught as an entitlement to all children irrespective of their immediate wants."

Education should be the "disinterested study of the best that has been thought and said" but schools were often not fulfilling that aim.

Professors of education, he suggested, were biased in their discussion of education. They should be willing to give credit to government policies. "If a visitor from Mars were to scrutinise the arguments of leading professors of education, he/she/it would not, I think, come to the conclusion that [with a few honourable exceptions] their stance was one of complete academic neutrality."

A spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers said: "Teachers are very practical and concerned for their children. They mix and match their teaching methods to suit the children they are teaching and the buildings they are using. They use their professional judgement which Gillian Shepherd sets great store by."

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "At a time when Gillian Shephard seems to be winning the hearts and minds of teachers, Mr Woodhead, who is in a position far too eminent to permit naivety, makes a speech which could reignite the fire whose embers are dying out.

"Where are these dogmatic teachers? He should name them. His rhetoric detracts from the agenda of raising standards by scapegoating teachers. If he was in the private sector, Mr Woodhead would be sent on a long management training course."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery assistants required in Cambridge

£10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

Year 4 Teacher

£20000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wo...

English Teacher Thetford Secondary

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: An Academy based in Thetfor...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work at ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week