Institute welcomes straight-talking head

12th May 2000 at 01:00
THE NEW director of London University's Institute of Education is Geoff Whitty, who is currently its dean of research.

Professor Whitty will take over from Peter Mortimore in August. He was chosen from a short-list of four after 30 candidates from six countries applied for the pound;105,854- a-year post.

Professor Mortimore's decision to retire came as a surprise to his colleagues who had expected him to remain at the helm until after the institute's centenary year in 2002.

His successor's appointment will please the institute's academics and students who are said to have favoured his appointment.

Colleagues describe 53-year-old Professor Whitty, who is the brother of transport minister Lord Whitty, as a straight-talking man of the Left who will be a "critical friend" to ministers.

Educationists had predicted that the job would go to someone who would enjoy a better relationship with New Labour than Professor Mortimore did.

The departing director was sometimes a thorn in the side of New Labour with his outspoken criticisms of its government's tyle.

Colleagues say that they will find Professor Whitty no less quick to speak his mind, if less flamboyant than his predecessor.

Stephen Ball, professor of social policy at King's College, London, said:

"Geoff blends a strength of will with an openness and humour that is quite unusual. He is seen as Old Labour but he manages to talk directly to this administration - he has had some very frank discussions with David Blunkett."

Professor Whitty first came to the institute as a PGCE student in 1968. He became a history and humanities teacher before moving swiftly through lecturer posts at Bath University and King's College, London, to senior positions at Bristol Polytechnic in 1985 and Goldsmiths' College, London, in 1990.

He returned to the institute in 1992 as the Karl Mannheim Professor of the Sociology of Education and has been dean of research since 1998.

His study last year into the education of more able pupils hit the media spotlight when it concluded that brighter pupils did better at grammar schools, albeit slightly.

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