Uncompromising polemicist meets evangelical pioneer

6th June 1997 at 01:00
Aged 57 to Chris Woodhead's 50, Tim Brighouse is an equally strong though dramatically contrasting personality. In appearance a windswept academic to Mr Woodhead's lean, controlled politician, Tim Brighouse is a passionate, evangelical speaker with an unaffected, easy-going manner.

His insistence that teachers need support as well as pressure in order to give of their best, and his faith in the ability of local authorities to inspire and direct education policy, together with his belief that schools' performance must be judged according to the conditions in which they are operating, has earned him much support within the profession.

He read history at Oxford and taught at two schools before becoming deputy education officer in Monmouthshire and Buckinghamshire and under secretary for education at the Association of County Councils. Between 1976 and 1978 he was deputy education officer at the old Inner London Education Authority. He took control of education in Oxford in 1978 and in Birmingham in 1993.

Professor Brighouse made headlines when he successfully sued former education secretary John Patten for slander after Mr Patten publicly called him "a nutter". Mr Patten agreed in the High Court to pay substantial damages, an embarrassment which did much to finish off his career.

Under Tim Brighouse's leadership, Birmingham has became a testing ground, pioneering Labour's plans. He introduced testing of five-year-olds to provide a better measure of progress, target setting for schools and literacy and numeracy drives.

In 1995, Tim Brighouse joined forces with one of Chris Woodhead's strongest critics, Professor Ted Wragg, to publish a no-holds-barred attack on OFSTED. They argued that OFSTED inspections were a "one-off ordeal" which did little to improve standards because they are not followed by advice and support. Inspectors were criticised for assuming that all schools are the same: "It is as if an inspection of a hospital were to attach greatest importance to the discovery that death rates in the ward for the terminally ill are higher than those in the ward for patients with ingrowing toenails." They proposed that OFSTED should be abolished and inspection returned to the public sector, with more emphasis on self-evaluation and local expertise.

In January, in a debate at the Institute of Education on the future of inspection, Tim Brighouse launched another attack on OFSTED accusing it of subjecting schools to a "reign of terror".

Career Development, page 24 TES2

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