Books: What the Inspector Can't Recall ; Does the Former Chief Inspector of Schools Have the Correct Credentials to Lecture Us about Educational Standards? Fred Inglis Examines His Achievements

By Inglis, Fred | The Independent (London, England), March 16, 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Books: What the Inspector Can't Recall ; Does the Former Chief Inspector of Schools Have the Correct Credentials to Lecture Us about Educational Standards? Fred Inglis Examines His Achievements


Inglis, Fred, The Independent (London, England)


CLASS WAR: THE STATE OF BRITISH EDUCATION

Chris Woodhead

Little, Brown, pounds 14.99, 212pp

This is a book that belongs to the history of publicity, not of educational thought. It puts me keenly in mind of a paragraph in the novelist Storm Jameson's autobiography: "I watched with amazement and misgiving the hand-over-fist climb of an ambitious young man... a clever office-soldier with a great deal of charm... capable in good faith of arranging to advance himself at the expense of less adroit colleagues by any means except violent ones. He was not vain, not unscrupulous in anything except the turning-points of his career."

Chris Woodhead so advanced himself that he became the first of Her Majesty's chief inspectors to attain the doubtful reward of national celebrity. It would be hard to find a post for which the curious mixture of his qualities - his deliberate, sometimes endearing recklessness, his powerful charm, his brutality and insolence, his executive incisiveness - were less suited.

This is the senior figure in local authorities who made clear his opinion of colleagues by attending their meetings with his feet up on the committee table; whose contract with the Associated Examining Board as a coursework moderator was not renewed after he had failed to notify the Board when he moved address and, as a result, important correspondence had been neglected; who boasted to a colleague, after getting a job training teachers at the University of Oxford, that he "never marked kids' work". This is the national custodian of the intellectual virtues who, while deputy to Duncan Graham at the National Curriculum Council at York, sloped off to London to press his suit with the Baroness Blatch and her specialist aide, the head of Dixons, so that together they duly appointed the honest go-getter to his grand office.

Tim Brighouse, Birmingham's famously progressive (and New Labour) chief education officer, tells the tale of how - once in that office - Woodhead radically adjusted an otherwise-benign report on his authority. When Woodhead's staff, leaking like a urinal, ensured that Brighouse saw an early draft as well as the published report, the Chief Inspector swore detailed vengeance on his colleagues - without ever catching the culprits.

Tom Wylie, a senior HMI who left the inspectorate while the going was good, remarked of Woodhead that "he holds no opinions that would be out of place in the bar of the Wokingham Golf Club". The work in hand bears this richly out. It is commended by the publishers as "the book every parent should read", but there is nothing here they have not already heard Woodhead say in the columns of the Tory- favouring press so briefly hospitable to him.

Woodhead boasted to a colleague, at the change of government in 1997, "They daren't sack me. If they did, it would show they were soft on standards." But his opening chapter on "Standards" disgraces the standards we should expect from such a voice: those of careful argument, due authority, detailed evidence, deliberative judgement and decent prose.

He calls for standards, but provides no index. He quotes (and misnames) the respected American commentator E D Hirsch on cultural literacy, but is himself unlettered. His notes (there is no bibliography) contain 44 mostly unpaginated references, almost all newspaper articles. Mine is not a crabbed, scholastic objection. There is absolutely no sense, in this boring yet outrageous book, of any interest in the life of the mind that Woodhead was paid pounds 115,000 a year to uphold.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Books: What the Inspector Can't Recall ; Does the Former Chief Inspector of Schools Have the Correct Credentials to Lecture Us about Educational Standards? Fred Inglis Examines His Achievements
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?