Christmas holiday, prompting those whornspotted it to claim that the governmentrnwas ashamed ofhaving to make it. But arnmore cynical (and possibly more accurate)rninterpretation would be that therngovernment is planning for a future withoutrnteachers—at least, without teachersrnin the traditional sense of the word. Afterrnall, the standard of those candidates whorndo come forward to be trained has beenrnin free-fall for years. Trainee teachersrnnow have the lowest grades at A level ofrnany university students—an average ofrntwo D’s and an E. (Those preparing forrna career caring for animals, by contrast,rnhold an average of three A’s.) To entrustrnthe academic future—and, for that matter,rnpresent—of our children to such arndeclining body of dullards is clearly arnnon-starter.rnYou don’t have to be dumb to becomerna teacher in Blair’s Britain, of course,rnbut you certainly have to be dumb tornwant to become one. Or blindly optimistic.rnThe profession is about to be splitrninto two lanes—fast and slow—so thatrnthe doctrine of performance-related payrncan be accommodated. Some might berntempted to join the fast-track “officerrnclass” that will emerge, better paid thanrnthe slow-track majority, who will bernmere NCO’s—national curriculum operatives.rnBut even the stupidest of thosernon the brink of tertiary education mustrnhave noticed the relentless vilification ofrnteaching by the “knowledge economists”rnwho now politically control it. For yearsrnnow, teachers have been publicly pickedrnover and scrutinized with all the dispassionaterndelicacy of the Ayatollah Kalkhalirnpaddling through the entrails ofrnthat poor American pilot. The claimrnthat teachers are inadequate has provedrnto be the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy,rnand, ultimately, its self-fialfilling prophetrnis Her Majesty’s headline-grabbingrnchief inspector of schools, Chris Woodhead.rnIn 1995, at the end of a round of inspectionsrnby his Office for Standards inrnEducation (known by its ugly acronym,rn”Ofsted”), Woodhead famously announcedrnthat he estimated there to bern15,000 incompetent teachers who oughtrnto be sacked, and that “thousands more”rnwere “on the borderline.” The claim wasrna statistical non sequitur. School inspectionsrnthen did not even attempt to assessrnindividual teachers. But the figure wasrnprinted in large type on the front pages ofrnall the newspapers, and it stuck in thernpublic consciousness. Four years later.rnthe man who believes in performancerelatedrnpay for teachers reported again.rnNow, he tells us, there are—yes, 15,000rnincompetent teachers who ought to bernsacked. So much for his own performance.rnBut such claims have brought aboutrnthe virtual beatification of Woodhead inrnthe eyes of the unthinking right, who re-,rnjoice that a figure of such authorityrnshould offer them an identifiable minorityrnupon which to pour legitimized contempt.rnPapers like the Daily Mail (arnjournal whose appeal embraces the conservativelyrnstupid and the stupidly conservativernin equal measure) have rarelyrnprinted his name unqualified by thernwords “the admirable.” For many, hernis not just the embodiment of “standards”rn—a word that falls often from hisrnlips—but the very standard itself, flutteringrnin the face of all those inadequaternteachers. And last year, the governmentrnawarded him a second term in officernwith a headline-grabbing 40-percent payrnincrease. No wonder the Observerrnplaced him 208th in its list of the 300rnmost influential people in Britain. Notrnmany of the top 300, though, enjoy thernapparently invincible security of tenurernof Chris Woodhead. Proof of that occurredrnrecently, when he survived arnscandalous weekend in the papers whichrnfew others could have endured. Therngovernment is preparing legislation torncriminalize sexual relationships betweenrnteachers and pupils aged 16-plus—hithertornan area covered by professional discipline.rnAfter a university lecture, Woodheadrnsaid that he believed that suchrnrelationships could sometimes be “educative”rnand “experiential.” His wordsrnwere widely reported—along with thernfact that Woodhead, who had once beenrna teacher himself, had lived for ninernyears with one of his own ex-pupils afterrnleaving his wife and new baby in 1975.rnBut far from resigning, he simply apologized,rnrecanted, and carried on—withrnthe public support of the education ministerrnhimselfrnThe virtual apotheosis of Dr. Woodheadrnmight be good news for him, andrncomforting in the lounge bars and golfrnclubs where his health is drunk, but it isrnbad news for teacher recruitment. Hisrnunassailable standing is quite particularlyrnresponsible for the refusal of intelligentrnyoung people to offer themselves asrnteachers, for the rush to early retirementrnby those in mid-service, and for the nauseatedrnennui of those who just can’t getrnout. Yes, poor pay, long hours, wastefulrnbureaucracy, and the contempt of uncivilizedrnchildren and adults alike play theirrnpart, but all of these are constantly fueledrnby the relentlessly self-righteous publicrnutterances of a chief inspector whom itrnhas suited two successive governments tornendow with the status of a messiah. Nobodyrnwith any wit now seriously considersrnembarking upon a career whichrnwould have to be spent with that squatrntoad, Ofsted, on his back.rnThe delicious irony—for those whorntake pleasure in tastes of such bitternessrn—is that the demonic paradigm thatrnWoodhead is pursuing is extinct. It isrnyears since the witless ideals of thernhubristic, Camaby-Sfreet-clutter-brainedrn1960’s have polluted English education.rnIndeed, the last time that such creaturesrnstalked the metal-casemented corridorsrnof our box-like, brick-built state comprehensivernschools was when—mirabile diciurn—Christopher Woodhead was a teacherrnhimself And what sort of teacher?rnPrecisely the sort that he now vilifies.rnFor Woodhead’s public crusade is inrnpursuit of the dragon of his own past—rnthe definitive frendy. Considering thatrnthe man himself has claimed that anyonerncan walk into any school and size itrnup in an hour, at £150,000 a year, Ofstedrnis some indulgence—even for a messiah.rnOfsted inspections are stressful, invasive,rnand hideously expensive. More importantly,rnthey are totally destructive ofrngoodwill. The burden is upon the teacherrnto prove that he is doing his job to thernsatisfaction of the inspector; the presumptionrnis that he is not. Teachersrndrown in paperwork, for they have to justifyrnthemselves by planning, recording,rnand analyzing their every action, as wellrnas those of the pupils they teach. Why?rnBecause nothing in teaching or learningrnis valued unless it is measurable andrnprovable. While Britain’s contemporarrnmasters sing of the “professionalism”rnthey expect of teachers, the notion thatrnthe teacher is in any real sense a professionalrn—that is, one whom society trusts,rnby virtue of his qualification or experience,rnas entitled to profess his art—isrndead. Respect is conditional upon thernapproval of a machinery controlled (withrnenthusiasm) by one man. It is nonsense.rnIt is also a fraud.rnFigures are now beginning to emergernwhich show that the “scientific” methodologyrnof Ofsted is not just destructive, butrnlaughably inaccurate. Twenty-five percentrnof schools inspected last year report-rn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn