Scourge of teachers Woodhead is knighted

17th June 2011 at 01:00

He is one of the most divisive men in education, notorious for making derogatory comments about teachers and for fierce clashes with unions.

Now the work of former Ofsted chief inspector Chris Woodhead has met with royal approval - he was knighted in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours.

Sir Chris, now chairman of independent schools group Cognita and professor of education at Buckingham University, controversially claimed in 1995 that there were 15,000 incompetent teachers.

He has since denounced Ofsted as an "irrelevance" and "a waste of public money". And two years ago Sir Chris revealed he had motor neurone disease, saying he would rather kill himself than die in agony from the illness.

Education secretary Michael Gove said: "I would like to congratulate Sir Chris Woodhead on his thoroughly deserved knighthood. Sir Chris has worked tirelessly in the world of education for most of his life. He has played a critical role in driving school improvement under successive governments."

Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said Sir Chris "richly deserved" the honour and praised his "razor-sharp mind".

"He led Ofsted through a critical formative period and delivered quite exacting cycles of inspection on time and to a high standard. This did lead him to say unpopular things which upset people, but it doesn't mean they weren't accurate," Professor Smithers said.

But John Bangs, the NUT's former head of education, said the knighthood could be seen to be for "services to the Tory party".

He added: "Before he took over at Ofsted he portrayed himself as being sympathetic to the views of teachers. He negotiated everything with unions and his relationships with them were cordial. When he became inspector things changed."

Mary Bousted, general secretary of teaching union the ATL, had a more pithy reaction. "We are very pleased about Bruce Forsyth," she said. The entertainer also picked up a knighthood from the Queen.

In total, 13 headteachers and 12 school and college principals were recommended for honours, as well as six school governors.

HONOURED

FROM 'DOCTOR' TO 'DAME'

Her new title of "Dame" has presented a problem for headteacher Reena Keeble's pupils.

The children at Cannon Lane First School in Harrow have just got used to calling Dame Reena "Dr Keeble" after she finished her doctorate. In a vote, they were split on whether they should continue calling her that, or "Dame Dr Keeble".

It is clear the pupils are proud of their headteacher, who was given the honour for services to education nationally and locally. Six-year-old Finley sent her a card that said: "We are all so very proud of you."

Dame Reena has been in charge of Cannon Lane First School for 18 years, and a local teacher for 29. "I'd like to think this is not about me, this honour is for my school," she said.

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