A change of heart by Woodhead?

4th December 1998 at 00:00
At last, Chris Woodhead admits: "Nobody really pretends that the inner city and the leafy suburb school face exactly the same problems" ("Subliminal messages", TES, November 20).

This is a welcome statement. It is also a "U-turn" of enormous significance.

Currently, social, economic and other contextual factors are not allowed to be taken into account when judgments are made about schools and teaching. Chris Woodhead has always insisted that the same criteria must be applied whatever the circumstances.

Given the Office for Standards in Education's approach, it came as no surprise when a year ago Chris Woodhead confirmed to our union that more than 75 per cent of the primary and 95 per cent of the secondary schools deemed to be failing had an above-average percentage of pupils on free school meals.

Chris Woodhead may prefer raw test results to be published. However, in calling into question value-added based on prior attainment, he has now come up against the obvious; social and background factors do make a difference to pupil achievement.

Where will this thinking lead next - a recommendation that OFSTED's role should be fundamentally reviewed?

Doug McAvoy

General Secretary National Union of Teachers Hamilton House London WC1

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