Woodhead `in cahoots' with prince

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Chris Woodhead, the Chief Inspector of Schools, has been accused of acting "in cahoots" with The Prince of Wales to promote a teacher training initiative which appears to conflict with government policy.

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, says that Mr Woodhead's plans for more school-centred teacher training contradict ministers' statements before the election about how teachers should be trained.

He asked Estelle Morris, the schools minister, in the Commons last week: "Will she explain on whose authority the Chief Inspector of Schools, Mr Chris Woodhead, possibly in cahoots with Prince Charles, is promoting school-centred teacher training?" Prince Charles, who shares Mr Woodhead's concern about "trendy" teaching methods, is understood to have had several meetings with the chief inspector, including at least one at Highgrove.

Traditionalists, who blame universities and colleges for failing to train new teachers to teach the basics, support school-centred schemes started by the previous government under which schools devise and run their own courses.

However, the schemes were attacked by Labour, which favours a partnership between schools and higher education, during debates on the Education Bill in 1994.

Ministers are preparing to announce changes to school-centred training as part of a package of measures to be published on Friday.

Ms Morris said in reply to Mr Foster: "I remain convinced that we need a combination of sound practice in schools and strong links with institutions of higher education if we are to train people to be effective teachers."

Many teachers argue that reports from the Office for Standards in Education, which Mr Woodhead heads, show that the schemes have had only limited success. Experts say that they fail to give new teachers the overview of education which they need.

Mr Woodhead said last night: "I do not accept the school-centred teacher training is a failed experiment. I am not promoting the scheme. What I am interested in is general initiatives designed to ensure that the excellence of our outstanding schools is used to the benefit of the system."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Heads have voted with their feet over school-centred teacher training. The vast majority have stayed with higher education and are running programmes in partnership with them."