HC Deb 16 April 1999 vol 329 c382W
Fiona Mactaggart

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools. [81554]

Mr. Blunkett

Further to the reply of my hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards to my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) on 24 March 1999,Official Report, column 288, I have received papers over the period 6 April to 13 April from solicitors acting on behalf of Mrs. Cathy Woodhead. They relate wholly to the progress of the Woodheads' divorce in 1976 and 1977 and date from September 1976. They contain a number of exchanges between Mrs. Woodhead and her solicitor, plus a signed statement from Chris Woodhead admitting to adultery in November and December 1976, some months after he and Amanda Johnston left Gordano school. I have considered that material. No evidence has been presented to me that proves that Mr. Woodhead had a sexual relationship with Ms Johnston while she was his pupil. Both Mr. Woodhead and Ms Johnston have signed documents to the effect that there was no relationship until the late autumn of 1976.

It is not for me as Secretary of State to intervene in the rights and wrongs of a divorce which took place 23 years age; nor to side with either Mr. or Mrs. Woodhead in a dispute about the facts surrounding that divorce. My responsibility is in relation to the role of the Chief Inspector as a Crown employee and to apply good management practice fairly and impartially. There is nothing in the papers I have seen which substantiates the allegations made against Chris Woodhead or calls into question his suitability to continue as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools. I do not, therefore, intend to carry out any further investigations of this matter.