After stepping down from one of the most influential and controversial positions in England’s educational system, a former official is venting his frustrations over the pace of school improvement in a very public forum.
In a series of articles published this month in The Daily Telegraph, Chris Woodhead, who oversaw school evaluations for the past six years as Her Majesty’s chief inspector, describes the bureaucratic and political quagmire that he says stalled many initiatives.
Mr. Woodhead, who was appointed during the previous Conservative government, had expressed harsh criticism of teachers and proponents of progressive education throughout his tenure. His latest attacks, however, are directed at Minister of Education David Blunkett and the government of Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had been his allies on many fronts.
“David Blunkett has presided over a set of initiatives that has wasted taxpayers’ money, distracted teachers from their real responsibilities, and encapsulated the worst of the discredited ideology that has done so much damage since the 1960s,” Mr. Woodhead contends in his commentaries in the London-based newspaper. “A generation of children has been betrayed.”
The articles describe what Mr. Woodhead sees as a resistance to increased academic rigor and accountability for the 26,000 schools and 400,000 teachers in England and Wales.
Blunkett has downplayed the commentaries, but issued a statement disputing Mr. Woodhead’s criticisms. “My drive to improve schools has come from the deepest personal conviction born from my own experience of what it is like to be let down by school and seeing pupils in my constituency not getting a decent education,” the statement says. “It is simply untrue to suggest that the measures we have taken have not made a difference.”
A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2001 edition of Education Week as England’s Former School Inspector Takes Aim Against Labor Leaders