Calculated reply;Diary

12th February 1999 at 00:00
An unfamiliar figure appeared at the launch of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools' annual report. For sure, it looked like HMCI, and yet . . .

For a start, he arrived in plenty of time for the press conference - even ahead of the hacks. (Chris Woodhead is famous for breezing in seconds before he's due on.) What's more, he actually seemed interested in the questions.

It had been a tricky week for the chief inspector, what with those salacious stories, but the press corps kept to the report in hand. (Apart from the chap from The Sun, obviously).

Perhaps this explained Mr Woodhead's helpfulness in working out some tricky figures for them - namely the number of incompetent teachers. In response to a question, he gallantly translated the percentages in his report into hard figures - 15,000, in case you missed it.

By Wednesday's appearance before the Education Select Committee, he remained notably modest. How come the celebratory annual report had ended up in the papers as a scare story about 15,000 useless teachers? members asked.

Mr Woodhead, never one to foment teacher anxiety, side-stepped artfully. "The figure appears neither in my report nor in the press release," he demurred. Chairman Malcolm Wicks was left duly impressed by journalists' numeracy.

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