Chris Woodhead achieved notoriety for his bold stance, while Chief Inspector of Schools (1996-2000), on the importance of a strong and politically independent schools inspectorate. Following his resignation from office, he wrote Class War: The State of British Education in 2002 – a damning verdict on the systemic failures of mainstream British Education and a clarion call for reform.
A Desolation of Learning asks whether our schools are any better today, despite successive curriculum interventions and restructurings since 1997. Disappointed by the dumbing down of the curriculum, wearied by the never-ending drive to 'modernise' children's 'educational experience' and caught up in a programme of social engineering, good teachers have been left dispirited and disillusioned.
'Labour's greatest achievement has been to create an educational thought-world: a set of ideas about education and teaching which it has imposed upon the profession.'
This book tells the story of the Government's continued failure to educate our children. A radical and engaging critique of current British education policy and practice, A Desolation of Learning should be an encouragement and a stimulus to all those, parent and practitioner alike, who have in recent years felt increasingly uneasy with the direction of government policy and come to grieve the steady disappearance from the curriculum of traditional educational values.
Chris Woodhead is Professor of Education at the University of Buckingham and Chairman of the Cognita Schools Group. He broadcasts and writes frequently on education policy and has a regular column in The Sunday Times.
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'Chris Woodhead: My last stand'
— the Sunday Times exclusive of 3rd May 2008 which marked the launch of the book.
'Don't say I was wrong'
— from an exclusive interview with Polly Curtis, featured in The Guardian education supplement, 12th May 2008, including a piece on 'The life and times of Chris Woodhead'.
Polly Curtis interview
— Listen to the full interview.
'Teachers are no longer in a profession'
— a piece by Chris, exclusively for the Times Educational Supplement (The TES), 15th May 2009, which provoked some firey online debate.
In the following week's issue, the 'Letter of the week' accolade went to this letter, which carried the eyebrow-raising opening line, 'I never thought I would put the words "Hooray!" and "Chris Woodhead" together in one sentence, but...'. Letters to the editor continue to litter the TES editorial pages. Click here to read some of them.
'Still raging: The scourge of teachers surveys the desolation of learning'
— a sympathetic piece, which hails his book as 'a deft skewering of educational mealy-mouthedness and doublethink' from one of the very few people 'who know enough to comment usefully on state education but have not become inured to its bureaucratic blizzard', The Economist, 21st May 2009.
'The British government's education policy is a disaster. It's time for market solutions,'
— says the former Chief Inspector of Schools. You can listen to the full interview with The Economist here.
'Woodhead says Ofsted is irrelevant'
— more from Polly Curtis in The Guardian, 22nd May 2009.
'Let's return to teaching'
— a piece by Chris, in response to review and criticism, on the curriculum's preference for 'feelings' over 'fact', The Sunday Times, 31st May 2008.
Education, Education, Education
— a piece by Chris, appearing in the July/August edition of Standpoint magazine, asking what New labour has achieved for all the utopian policy-making and massive investment of the last decade.
Following astonishing remarks by Ralph Tabberer, the former Director-General of Schools at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, about the decline in academic standards and the current obsession with 'fairness', Melanie Phillips wrote this article for The Spectator (15th June 2009), roundly endorsing Chris's stance: Now he tells us!'.
The review from Attain magazine
— 16th September 2009
'Time for blue educational thinking, Mr Gove'
— Labour hasn't provided a world-class schools system, but can the Conservatives bring a bolder, freer future?, TES, 15th January 2010
'Will the Tories give us the schools we deserve?'
— Michael Gove and Chris Woodhead discuss the Conservatives' plans for far-reaching educational reform, Standpoint magazine, 19th February 2010
Whose Degree is it Anyway? exposes the ever-worsening state of British universities. Evidence of what is happening in higher education today is presented by the leading players: university vice chancellors and rectors; senior government figures, who have to set and follow policies; teachers in secondary education, who sense prejudice in the selection of their pupils; employers, who cannot rely on the status and meaning of a degree; worried parents, who have to foot the bill, and — at the sharp end — the students themselves and the academics who teach them.
Professor Robert Naylor's timely and insightful portrayal of the effects of financial cuts on universities, coupled with the unrealistic increase in the workload of academics and academic institutions, is reinforced by first-hand experiences and contributions from lecturers, educationalists and students. Together with the online discussion forum, this book will help to highlight and raise interest in the ongoing problems in higher education; in addition, it will inform relevant stakeholders in HE and provide an unbiased forum for all interested parties to discuss the crucial educational issues of the day.
Whose Degree is it Anyway?
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'‘… a powerful and timely contribution to the debate’
— A positive review from Joanna Williams of the University of Kent for ESCalate/The Higher Education Academy
The Review of Higher Education
— A review by Roger Watson, of the University of Sheffiel, vol. 32, no. 1 (Fall 2008)
The Radio 4 interview
— Robert faces off with Baroness Tessa Blackstone, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich and former Minister for Education and Employment on Radio 4’s ‘The Learning Curve, with Libby Purves. 29th October 2007