Take Chris to task

21st July 2000 at 01:00
HALLELUJAH! Chris Woodhead has finally attended a meeting of the Standards Task Force.

Colleagues on the Government's key advisory group had almost forgotten he was still their vice-chair. Now, after more than a year's absence, missing half-a-dozen quarterly meetings, Chris has returned. The problem is many on the task force can't decide which is more disgraceful: his absence or his presence.

Woodhead has already seen off his first co-vice chair Tim Brighouse (Cambridge prof and new QCA chief David Hargreaves, filled his shoes). Tim might as well have stayed - Chris has barely been seen since. And, unlike other members, he doesn't do sub-committees either. No time, you see. Too busy reviewing Harry Potter books for the Sunday Telegraph.

On hisgrand return, the Diary gathers, the man dubbed the saviour of education by William Hague appeared openly contemptuous of Government policy, huffing and puffing his way through the meeting, drumming his fingers and sighing deeply.

Twice, he had to be put down by ministers Estelle Morris and Jacqui Smith for interrupting, and when Estelle attempted to sum up by saying that the group seemed to agree on various policies, Woodhead piped up in dissent.

Not even Michael Barber, head of the standards and effectiveness unit, escaped his withering ridicule. When Barber mentioned a novel concept he'd picked up in the States of, er, praising teachers (you never know, it might catch on), Woodhead's despair was complete. "Oh, pur-leeze," he groaned.

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