Professor Michael Barber, an influential adviser on education to the Labour party who last week controversially proposed giving school inspectors the power to prepare confidential reports on poor teachers, is to take up a new chair at the London Institute of Education, one of the most important research centres in the country.
Professor Barber, currently professor of education at Keele University and a former education officer for the National Union of Teachers, will work with the institute's International School Effectiveness and Improvement Centre (ISEIC) when he takes up his post at the end of the year.
His appointment is one of three new professorial chairs announced by the institute this week. The other two are mathematician and statistician Alison Wolf (chair of education) and educational psychologist Brahm Norwich (chair of special educational needs) who will succeed Professor Klaus Wedell.
Professor Barber suggested in the fourth TESGreenwich lecture (TES, May 12) that inspectors' confidential reports on poor teachers would provide a basis for heads to begin disciplinary procedures. The proposal has been given a hostile response from the unions and Labour's education spokesman David Blunkett has distanced himself from the idea.
Professor Barber is the architect of Mr Blunkett's Fresh Start strategy for closing failing schools. He has become a prominent proponent of strategies for improving underperforming schools since he left the NUT for Keele 16 months ago. He will be working closely with Professor Peter Mortimore, the institute's director, Dr Louise Stoll, coordinating director of ISEIC, Dr Barbara MacGilchrist, dean of initial teacher education, and Professor Geoff Whitty.
His exact job description has yet to be discussed but a key part of his work will be the relationship between school effectiveness and education policy.
ISEIC, set up a year ago, has a network of 300 individual members, more than 20 education authorities and a number of government agencies, unions and parents' organisations.