Stings from 'gadfly' Woodhead cause enduring irritation

29th May 2009 at 01:00

It is obvious from your editorial on Chris Woodhead ("Better a gadfly than an overrated saint", May 15) that you recognise the damage he has done to teachers, and the irony that the prophet who now warns of a threat to the profession just happens to have been the spokesman for a government that devalued the work of teachers. But you still praise his value as a gadfly. Why?

Do you seriously think that he is the first person to notice that there is a load of jargon around and that many teachers don't have the confidence to think for themselves? Will his raising of this issue suddenly have a powerful impact on those who make decisions? Has his previous writing - Class War, anyone? - seriously contributed to debate, or inspired young teachers? When he had the chance of serious collaboration and debate (as one of the "three wise men"), he ditched it for mind games and retrospective gossip. What exactly is the legacy that he leaves behind?

The sad truth is that Professor Woodhead's achievement was always in his media impact. Journalists knew that he gave good headline, and they loved him for it. No more so than now. Motor neurone disease, a new book, disparaging quotes about former colleagues.

Unfortunately, all this contributes very little to the serious business of education, and your generous coverage simply accelerates the slide away from serious discussion into the culture of celebrity.

Paul Francis, Much Wenlock, Shropshire.

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