The rise and rise of Professor Strategy

9th May 1997 at 01:00
Michael Barber has been Labour's most influential adviser on education in the run-up to the election. He will take secondment from his post as dean of new initiatives at the Institute of Education at London University to head the new unit in the Department for Education and Employment.

Though an academic, he is fascinated by the interface between policy and politics.

As part of his research, he has interviewed both Jim Callaghan, former Labour Prime Minister, and Kenneth Baker, former Conservative Education Secretary, on the events that shaped their views. It was Professor Barber who first revealed that Mrs Thatcher took note of the views of her hairdresser. (Mr Baker told him.) In the competitive world of school effectiveness theory, Professor Barber is highly rated. Labour has already adopted his "fresh start" proposals for closing schools that are performing badly and opening a new school on the same site. It was Professor Barber that first mooted the idea that school inspectors could be required to identify poor teachers, an aspect of inspection that has become part of the routine.

The rise and rise of Professor Barber is a tribute to his skills as a communicator and his ability to think of daring strategies that are not always palatable to the teaching profession.

He is in demand for most serious education debates on programmes such as Newsnight.

Until now, he has managed to combine his role of adviser to Labour with a day job of advising the previous government.

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