Alarm over new professor

1st May 1998 at 01:00
JAMES Tooley, the leading free-marketeer who is regarded as a scourge of Britain's educational research establishment, has been given a professorship at Newcastle University.

News of his elevation has already caused dismay among some at the British Educational Research Association, who regard his activities with alarm.

Dr Tooley was chosen to investigate the educational research industry by another sceptic, chief inspector Chris Woodhead.

His yet unpublished study is understood to be highly critical and chunks of the draft report were quoted by Mr Woodhead in a recent New Statesman article: "Not only was much of the research partisan in nature," concludes Tooley, "but this was actively condoned by influential researchers." The methodology was flawed, he argues, while "much theoretical research was of dubious value".

Dr Tooley is a senior research fellow at Manchester University and director of education at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a right-leaning think tank. He once said that companies would find it more useful to look at IQ tests than exams when recruiting.

The prestige of Newcastle's education department has suffered since the loss of Professor Carol Fitz-Gibbon and Dr Peter Tymms, who took their work on school improvement and "value-added" measures to Durham University.

Dr Tooley - a freemarket thinker rather than a quantitative researcher - is a different style of academic whose reputation has been growing even though he has attracted a great deal of controversy. It is understood that Dr Tooley, who is 38, was one of two shortlisted applicants.

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