The leader who had to quit

15th September 2000 at 01:00
Mark Jackson looks back on the controversial career of the Inner London Education Authority chairman Harvey Hinds.

"MR Harvey Hinds must go" thundered the front page of The TES, on July 23, 1976. And duly the politician in charge of London's schools went.

Mr Hinds, who died this month at the age of 80, was at the helm when trouble flared at the William Tyndale junior in Islington in 1975. Parent dissatisfaction, governor intrigue, and political feuds, boiled over into a teachers' strike and mass parental protests.

The scenes outside Tyndale were the trigger for discussions on the state of education across the nation and the need for politicians to take a hand in improving it. Then Mr Hinds's evidence at the 14-week public inquiry provided politicians with clear targets for reform.

A former rector and youth worker who was chairman of the Inner London Education Authority's schools sub-committee, he was the authority's senior representative at the inquiry. He boasted that arriving at County Hall at 8.30am and staying till the early hours he received a "massive flow" of information which enabled him to keep tabs on all the schools and take effective action when necessary.

But when asked why he had repeatedly failed to intervene, he admitted that his control was largely illusory.

"That is the English system and I would not want to see it changed with what every teacher teaches at 11am being decided by the Secretary of State."

But James Callghan, the then prime minister, was not sold on a direction-free English school system. Within three months of the Tyndale inquiry report he called for a national debate saying he thought there should be a basic school curriculum.

By then Mr Hinds was no longer involved in education. In his eagerness to impress the inquiry he had implied that he was in charge of the ILEA school system and made no attempt to offload blame on to his political colleagues or superiors.

The inquiry's chairman, Robin Auld QC, criticised him accordingly for serious errors of judgment and sins of omission.

It was Mr Hinds's apparent intention to ride out the criticisms that provoked Stuart Maclure, the then TES editor, to pen his scathing leader. Mr Hinds resigned almost immediately.

Nevertheless, he will be remembered by many in education and the youth service for his kindness and encouragement, particularly to younger staff and colleagues.

Londoners, however, have a continuing reason to be grateful - or not - depending on your view of the city's new mayor. In 1981 as chief whip of the Greater London Council Mr Hinds was instrumental in securing the election as leader of Ken Livingstone, the only GLCILEA member to have supported the Tyndale teachers throughout the dispute.

Mr Hinds went on to the boards of the South Bank Theatre, London Festival Ballet and the London Port Authority. In retirement, he devoted his time to his Hertfordshire cottage garden.

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