Have you noticed?

11th September 1998 at 01:00
LIFE IS full of little surprises. When Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, arrived to address a conference of primary headteachers accompanied by his assistant and a man rumoured to be his food-taster, we were all prepared to have our prejudices confirmed. But, dammit, the man was, well... charming.

It was deeply disconcerting - like finding out Santa is a myth.

He told us that the Office for Standards in Education was far from perfect and solicited our complaints and concerns. He thought standards of inspection were improving but conceded that in the early days anyone could be an inspector "who could stand up and breathe". He advised us not to feel unduly constrained by the literacy programme if we were happy with our school's current teaching methods. He said that target-setting for continuous improvement was unrealistic as school cohorts varied from year to year, but that "Blunkett and Blair don't seem to realise this". We asked him to tell them.

Is this a man who is: a) Grossly misrepresented by the press? b) Adept at saying what his audience wants to hear? c) About to embark on a charm offensive with a view to re-appointment? d) A man who knows what his future holds and can say what he likes? Discuss.

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