The Prince, the charity and the chief inspector

4th July 1997 at 01:00
One of Prince Charles's favoured charities has employed a senior schools inspector to promote the controversial School Centred Initial Teacher Training scheme (SCITT), prompting allegations that the Prince is acting as a mouthpiece for Chris Woodhead, writes Nicholas Pyke.

Mr Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, has already been accused of stepping beyond his remit in promoting SCITT among 120 outstanding headteachers.

Now these heads have received letters from Sinclair Rogers, an HMI seconded to the charity Business in the Community, which has the Prince of Wales as its president. Mr Rogers seeks their "active support" for the scheme, which was vigorously attacked by Labour when in opposition.

This week the Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, Don Foster, accused Prince Charles of intervening at Mr Woodhead's behest. "The two certainly seem to be in league," said Mr Foster. "I have been reliably informed that there was a meeting. Following that, Business in the Community decided to take an active interest." Prince Charles has been advised by Mr Woodhead in the past and is known to share his scepticism about modern teaching methods.

Under SCITT, roughly 1 per cent of new trainee teachers are hired and trained by schools without the formal involvement of universities.

When it was introduced, SCITT was immediately seen as an attack on universities and "progressive" teaching methods. Many had expected to see it phased out under the new Government, but recent funding allocations from the Teacher Training Agency have strengthened its position.

"We are giving yet more money to a form of initial teacher training which we believe is far from the best way of developing new teachers," said Mr Foster. The Government, he said, was failing to act in accordance with the principles it once held. Speaking in May 1994, Estelle Morris - now an education junior minister - said that SCITT was "a serious misunderstanding of what's needed to make an effective teacher".

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