Mike Tomlinson has agreed to stand in as acting chief inspector until at least next spring when the job - which this year paid pound;124,000 plus a bonus of up to 10 per cent - will be advertised.
But he is thought unlikely to be a long-term replacement as he is just two years off the Office for Standards in Education's official retirement age of 60.
Among other potential successors are:
Michael Barber, head of the Department for Education and Employment standards and effectiveness unit. He was recently forced to apply for his own job after it was decided that the post should become a permanent civil service position.
David Hargreaves, head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. He is much admired by David Blunkett who made him joint chairman (with Mr Woodhead) of the standards task force.
Tim Brighouse, Bimingham's director of education, who resigned as joint chair of the standards task force last year, saying he wanted to devote his energies to raising standards in Birmingham.
TES columnist Ted Wragg, professor of education at Exeter, whose name was mentioned on BBC2's Newsnight. However he said: "I'm not the slightest bit interested in the job."
Liz Reid, highly praised by OFSTED and David Blunkett, who leaves Hackney on Friday after two-and-a-half years in the council's pound;85,000-a-year director of education post.
George Walden, the former Conservative MP and London Evening Standard columnist. He said: "I've not been approached and I would be very surprised if I was. I don't want the job."
Internal candidates at OFSTED include David Taylor, the agency's director of inspection; Peter Matthews, head of inspection quality; and David Moore, who was an Anglican priest in Brixton before becoming a schools inspector. Mr Moore is an HM Inspector who specialises in behaviour.