Blast from the past

One of the reasons Chris Woodhead excites such strong antipathy in the teaching profession is because he is something of a poacher turned gamekeeper - he now excoriates the "progressive" ideas he used to espouse before they became unfashionable.

Two weeks ago, Chris Woodhead suggested in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry that we are lagging behind our competitors on the skills front is because student teachers are reading books full of "specious" ideas.

He quoted at length from one book - Teachable Moments, by Peter Woods and Bob Jeffrey which includes the following contribution from a primary teacher: "I worry that children are always looking for the right answer. . . they imagine that I'm holding out on them, making them guess. What I want them to realise is that there's any right answer for them, and they have to decide on what it is."

No wonder we are in the state we're in, said Mr Woodhead, if professors and pundits hailed such "thinking" as good practice.

But here is Mr Woodhead in his younger days as an Oxford PGCE-tutor, writing in The TES on July 11, 1980 advocating "discovery learning" : " We are deeply anxious that the children will take advantage of us and escape our control. . . 'Tell us the answer, Sir, you know what it is'. To reply that you do not, and that your answer might not be theirs, is likely to cause no little upset. "

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