One-way Woody

July 24, 1998

Nothing can stand in the way of schools inspector Chris Woodhead when he's got a policy line to peddle - least of all empirical evidence, it seems.

Fresh from the row over his interesting interpretation of data on bad teachers, Woodhead is in another spot of bother over his determination to condemn universities' education research departments as useless.

Even before this week's critique of published research papers by right-wing professor James Tooley for Ofsted, Woodhead had condemned education research as "woolly". Tooley had echoed Woodhead's line that much of the work in the field is a waste of money before he embarked on the project, and little secret was made of the fact that his remit, set by Woodhead, was to look into claims by David Reynolds that there was too much "second-rate" research in the field.

For months Woodhead used selective leaks of Tooley's report - some of which have disappeared from the final version - in the New Statesman to describe research as "dross". And this week, in the foreword to the Tooley report, Woodhead asserts: "Much that is published is, on this analysis, at best no more than an irrelevance and distraction." This runs slightly contrary to Tooley's assertion, in his conclusion, that for all of the papers he examined, "a case could be made to suggest that they were relevant to policy and practice".

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