What about some praise for a change?

23rd February 1996 at 00:00
Your profile of Chris Woodhead (TES, February 9) contained the remarkable account of a career spanning many different jobs; moving from varied teaching posts, local authority positions, university appointments, jobs with the National Curriculum Council and finally the Office for Standards in Education.

So many experiences and still Mr Woodhead is only 49.

Mr Woodhead's career seems founded on the ability to find faults and weaknesses and then move on before he could be expected to be constructive and build solutions. This is scarcely a model for effective leadership.

Educational leadership must function on values of trust, respect, loyalty and commitment and many teachers must feel that Mr Woodhead's breathtakingly simplistic utterances are demotivating, demoralising and destructive to the vast number of teachers who work unstintingly on behalf of their pupils. He appears to believe that carping criticism is a model for success and perhaps has forgotten, or never learned, that praise, recognition and reward form a more productive climate for development. What would we say of parents who rubbished, derided and publicly decried their child's efforts to write, speak or tackle sums?

Perhaps Mr Woodhead feels that the best form of defence is attack. As chief inspector he has much to defend. The adversarial model of inspection pits inspectors against teachers. Schools endeavour to limit the potential damage of adverse publicity. This is hardly the most constructive use of the enormous amounts of money spent on these inspections. Headteachers know that they could use the same funds far more productively themselves and drive schools forward more quickly in doing so.

I rather hope that your profile was unkind and that Mr Woodhead is a man of honour, vision, compassion and integrity. Such a person could advance education considerably. Then again, teaching is a complex and subtle art. Deficiencies are not solved through sweeping generalisations nor constant change so perhaps Mr Woodhead's contributions will be more limited.

JJ WEST Deputy head 33 Fairview Road Hungerford, Berkshire

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