Task force advisers will be poles apart

30th May 1997 at 01:00
The Government is to draw advisers from the polar opposites of the education world to create a national task force to raise school standards.

The two professionals to be appointed as vice-chairmen of the standards task force are Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, and Tim Brighouse, Birmingham's chief education officer, who is one of the severest critics of the Office for Standards in Education, .

Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett has decided to personally head the task force. Stephen Byers, the standards minister, will be his deputy.

Around a dozen heads and teachers will be on the group and their role will be to provide an evangelical force to encourage schools to adopt effective teaching and management methods.

In his speech today to the National Association of Head Teachers, Mr Blunkett is expected to stress the commitment to revealing failings in schools through the inspections carried out under the auspices of OFSTED, while also highlighting the success of schools in difficult circumstances.

However, the choice of vice-chairmen is likely to raise eyebrows. The chief inspector has a reputation for emphasising the negative aspects of schools. His confrontational style has upset teachers and other academics. In contrast Mr Brighouse has spoken of OFSTED imposing "a reign of terror" on schools. He believes in schools setting their own targets for self-improvement and advocates a form of monitoring of schools that requires them to evaluate their own degree of success.

The contracts have not been finalised, but both men are expected to continue in their posts and help the task force part-time.

Mr Blunkett has said that the chief inspector, who has two years left to serve of a five-year term, will remain in the job. There may be changes in the administration of inspections, but schools will continue to be monitored regularly.

The message that the Government intends to take tough action against incompetent teachers was reinforced this week by Mr Byers. He has written to teachers' employers' organisations, chairs of the National Governors Council, unions and local government asking them to work with the Government to develop fair, firm ways, of dealing with incompetent teachers.

NAHT conference, pages 6 and 7

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