Diary

13th October 1995 at 01:00
Chris Woodhead's lacklustre performance at the annual conference of the Office for Standards in Education in July has had surprisingly serious consequences.

We can sensationally reveal that, according to the recently published official evaluation sheet, the man has failed his OFSTED inspection.

Marked by his HM Inspectorate audience for the "usefulness", "interest" and the now crucial "presentational skills" of his address, Mr Woodhead collected a stunning range of rubbish marks. The senior chief inspector, who controversially wants to name bad teachers, looks like being named himself.

The results from OFSTED's evaluation of the London summit, which was held for some reason in a Rotherhithe hotel, are as follows: Usefulness: grade 1 (awarded by 1 per cent of HMIs); grade 2 (14 per cent); grade 3 (24 per cent); fail (61 per cent).

Interest: 1 (11); 2 (25); 3(28); fail (36 per cent).

Presentation: 1 (0); 2 (22); 3 (29); fail (49 per cent).

A case of "serious weakness", perhaps, or even a "failing schools adviser". Will he face a hit squad, and who is it to be?

The sour remarks of those attending, published in the evaluation alongside the figures, show the depth of disgruntlement among those foolish enough to remain with the service. The HMIs accuse him of being "confrontational" and of purveying "mixed educational messages".

Already a much diminished band, they did not warm to his assertions that the fuddy duddy, old-style HMI culture must be swept away. With it, they fear, will go a century-old tradition of political impartiality. Suspicious from the start that he was a political appointee, they have been monitoring the senior chief inspector for more than his lecturing style and will not have been encouraged by this week's announcement, on the eve of the Conservative party conference, that OFSTED is to conduct a standards blitz in two inner-city boroughs, one with a Labourist past.

Mr Woodhead's increasingly presidential demeanour is another cause of concern to the guardians of caution, neutrality and unreadable prose.

He now alludes to his close relationship with Europe's leading educationist, using such memorable expressions as "the Prime Minister and I both believe. . . (that RegIs should tell headteachers about examples of both excellent and poor teaching)" - taken directly from a recently leaked memo to his staff. Nor did he hold back when addressing them in person.

His relationship with Education Secretary Gillian Shephard is not, it is understood, on quite the same cordial footing.

What is to become of Sheila Lawlor, deputy director of the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies, who has been cruelly passed over in the search for a replacement director.

The new woman at the top is Tessa Keswick who has fought her way from an aristocratic background to being very rich indeed and a political adviser to Kenneth Clarke. She was ever present during his spell of duffing up teacher- trainers and civil servants at the Department of Education and Science.

Ms Lawlor concedes that she has handed in her notice to the CPS, but is most insistent that there has been no unpleasantness of any kind. "We're all still friends," she explains. Eager to promote competition, she is to continue her invaluable writing on the world of education with yet another new think tank, the details of which will shortly be revealed.

Consternation in Aylesbury where a number of junior schools have been attempting to help out OFSTED by filling in their pre-inspection details on computer disc.

There are no warnings but, silly them, they should have realised that their ordinary machines, supplied by the county, would fail to cope with the turbo charged OFSTED mega discs - which promptly sent their systems crashing.

Whatever happened to cricket, fair play and all that? This question was ringing in the ears of the public school heads who were massing in Dublin this week for the annual Headmaster's Conference conference.

Their inquisitor is Jonty Driver, the Master of Wellington College, who as editor of the glossy HMC magazine Conference and Commonroom, believes that creeping standards of dishonesty now pervade British life.

Public schools, he says, are not exempt. Indeed some villainous boys are so hardened they deny offences in the teeth of full video evidence.

There was worse to come, however, in particular the truly crushing realisation that some schools now cheat at rugger. They are, God forbid, offering secret rugby scholarships to demon players without telling the rest of the HMC gang, brother toilers in the fields of private education. "There may," he warns, "be some interesting correspondence still to come."

The BTEC is a major beast in the "jungle" of vocational qualifications.

But just how committed is it, we ask, to this parity-of-esteem business?

Harriet Harper from Greenwich University writes to point out that, in advertising for a new PA to the Chief Executive, the BTEC demands someone with "A-level education or above".

Not a word about vocational qualifications, the BTEC National Diploma for example.

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