London school was failed by Woodhead

4th February 2005 at 00:00
Confidential documents obtained by teachers show that Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools, decided to fail their London school against the advice of senior inspectors.

Islington Green school was told it would be put into special measures the day after Labour swept to power in May 1997. The decision was confirmed later that year by Mr Woodhead after an HMI team was sent in to double-check.

Staff, who used the new Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents relating to the HMI visit more than seven years ago, discovered that senior inspectors argued against failing the school.

A confidential letter from Barry Jones, an HMI, to Mr Woodhead in November 1997 expresses surprise that he had placed the school in special measures.

At the time it had the second-best GCSE results in the borough and had appeared in a league-table of the top 100 schools in England for value-added results.

"As with all inner-city schools it had a number of clearly identifiable weaknesses," Mr Jones wrote. "However, the HMI team were of the unanimous view that the school was not failing."

The HMI letter was obtained by Ken Muller, the school's National Union of Teachers' representative. "Everyone at Islington Green was devastated when it was placed in special measures. Good teachers left and the GCSE passes halved."

Mr Woodhead said he could not remember details of the case. "It was my responsibility then as chief inspector to come to a personal decision on whether I should endorse the views of HMI or not. Normally I did, but there were occasions when I didn't."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today