Woodhead is `into ego, not education'

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The Independent Online
CHRIS WOODHEAD'S leadership of Ofsted, the schools standards watchdog, was criticised by MPs for being "more about ego than education".

Members of the Commons Education Select Committee attacked the chief inspector's outspoken style yesterday and demanded measures to call to account the Office for Standards in Education. They said he "could do better" and called for an end to the "Wagnerian chorus" surrounding his pronouncements on standards.

Malcolm Wicks, committee chairman, said Ofsted's public face "is about thunder and lightning, blood, sweat and tears. It's about warring factions and more about ego than education."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the message to Mr Woodhead was "reform or resign".

Mr Woodhead dismissed the attack: "As to my personal style, I have praised excellence and challenged complacency and mediocrity. That is what I am paid to do and what I shall continue to do."

The committee called for MPs to be given "an advisory role" in the appointment or re-appointment of the chief inspector and said candidates should be questioned by a select committee. There was a need for greater accountability in the inspectorate and they proposed a new board of independent commissioners to oversee the work of Ofsted and the chief inspector.

MPs called for more serving teachers to work as Ofsted inspectors and said there should be a greater role for lay inspectors to ask: "Is this a school to which I would send my children?"

The MPs refused to be drawn into the controversy over claims by Mr Woodhead's former wife that he had an affair with a sixth-former while teaching at her school. Mr Woodhead denies it.

The report said there was a "widespread perception that some of Mr Woodhead's views are based more on his opinions than inspection evidence".

The MPs insisted the chief inspector should speak out where necessary. But, they said, "we feel strongly that such public expression of views should be based firmly on clear and scientific evidence emerging from inspections undertaken by Ofsted's inspectors and other reputable sources".

Mr Woodhead has angered teachers with controversial statements about education standards, most famously the claim that there are 15,000 teachers so incompetent they should be sacked. He insists his uncompromising approach has contributed to a change of culture in schools.

David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education, backed Mr Woodhead. "Under the leadership of Chris Woodhead, Ofsted is making a significant contribution to the Government's drive to raise standards in schools, local education authorities and teacher training colleges."