The Inspector Bites Back; Chris Woodhead Reveals What He Really Thinks of Labour's Education Policy and Speaks for the First Time about His Affair with a Student
Levin, Angela, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: ANGELA LEVIN
CHRIS WOODHEAD'S fall from his commanding position as Chief Inspector of Schools was dramatic. He resigned amid a firestorm of professional criticism and persistent allegations of sexual impropriety, serial womanising and being untruthful about the age of a young student he fell in love with.
But now - at 55 - Woodhead wants to put the record straight, and in doing so he takes a hefty swipe at Tony Blair, Education Secretary Estelle Morris and her predecessor David Blunkett and also reveals his close friendship with Prince Charles - as well as all about the women in his life.
A comfortable man he is not: bluntness brought him down, and it is bred in his bones.
Woodhead has always wanted schoolchildren to be taught to read, write and do sums. He doesn't like trendy teaching methods or headteachers who spend more time at conferences than in their school. He also believes useless teachers should be sacked. Since he has spent all his working life involved with education, his voice and opinions are well worth listening to.
These views turned him into a hate figure for some people in the educational establishment, particularly those who dislike his insistence on traditional teaching methods.
Eventually, it became too much of an uphill struggle even for Woodhead, whose chief hobby is rock climbing. He felt that he no longer wanted to support the Government, so he resigned as Chief Inspector a year ago.
He has now written a devastating book, Class War: The State Of British Education in which he expounds his theories on the education system. It will be serialised in the Mail next week.
His analysis is sharp, focused and sometimes terrifying. His solutions to the problems are radical.
Yet while his opinions on education seem sound and sensible, the same cannot always be said for his decisions in matters of the heart.
In January 1999, a scandal erupted around his affair in the Seventies with a former pupil, Amanda Johnston. He was married at the time with an 11-month-old daughter, Tamsin. Eventually, he left his wife. Then he and Amanda lived together for nine years.
Woodhead originally insisted that they didn't get together until after she'd left school. But two months after the story first broke, his former wife, Cathy, said this wasn't true.
Her accusations and the wave of publicity were partly responsible for the break-up of his ten-year relationship with Ruth Miskin, one of the country's best primary school teachers.
'I do like women, but I am clearly not very good at relationships,' he admits rather coyly. 'I'm coming to the conclusion that it's perhaps better for me to live on my own.' He lives in a five-bedroom house in Porthmadog, North Wales. It is half a mile down a track, halfway up a mountain and ideally placed for walking and climbing. THE GREAT thing about climbing is that when you are doing it, nothing else matters,' he says. 'I spent last weekend there and didn't see anyone until Sunday night.
It didn't worry me.
'I'm not easy to live with. I can be selfish, stubborn and impatient. I wake up at 4.30am and am tired by 9pm. Not everyone could cope with that. But I can't compromise.
'I'm also exhausted by social contact and would often rather listen to a Beethoven or Shostakovitch CD.' Like most climbers, Woodhead prefers life to be in black and white terms. He is not a yes man. Nor is he afraid to take risks - characteristics that would hardly endear him to woolly-minded educationalists or members of the Labour Government.
He felt he had no option but to resign. 'Not only did I believe I was compromising my own views, I also felt that Tony Blair and David Blunkett, then Education Secretary, were using me to imply that they were serious about education standards, whereas in reality they were trying to undermine me.
'I have become totally disillusioned with Tony Blair. …