Outside appointments lead to mixed results;News;News amp; Opinion

3rd December 1999 at 00:00
OUTSIDERS appointed to key jobs in education are traditionally treated with suspicion. In part, this reaction stems from a handful of appointments from the business world made by the previous Conservative administrations.

Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, a banker and right-wing academic was appointed to chair the Government's examinations quango in the early 1990s. Professor Michael Barber, now head of the standards and effectiveness unit at the Department for Education and Employment, wrote that Lord Griffiths' failure to brief ministers adequately helped lead to the boycott of English tests by teachers.

Margaret Thatcher was keen that Lord Griffiths and senior BP executive David Pascall - both in the Number 10 policy unit - be drafted into education. Lord Griffiths went to the Schools Examinations and Assessment Council and Mr Pascall to the National Curriculum Council.

In the summer of 1991 the existing chief executives of those quangos were sacked to make way for them. Within a couple of years, teachers were at loggerheads with the government over the national curriculum and its tests.

The Conservatives also brought in Sir Christopher Benson, chairman of Sun Alliance, to chair the Funding Agency for Schools, and appointed Sir Stanley Kalms, the right-wing founder of the Dixons chain, to its board.

However, not all the outsiders during this period were unpopular with the profession.

Sir Graham Day, the head of the Rover Group, was appointed as first chairman of the School Teachers' Review Body. He was a brash Canadian with a Thatcherite reputation. But he won over teacher unions with his straightforward approach, and became more sympathetic to schools.

The appointment of Sir Ron Dearing - a successful civil servant - to chair the new School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, created from the merger of the exam and curriculum quangos, proved a turning point for the Conservatives.

At a stroke, Sir Ron replaced Lord Griffiths and Mr Pascall and set about restoring teachers' confidence in the national curriculum.

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