[ProgressiveEd] For your attention

[email protected] [email protected]
Thu, 1 May 2003 14:54:15 +0000 (UTC)

Linda spotted this on the Guardian Unlimited site and thought you should see it.
Note from Linda:
This is the Education Minister's response to the Teachers Union!
To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to http://www.guardian.co.uk
Clarke damns NUT 'antics' and says tests and targets are here to stay
Rebecca Smithers, education correspondent
Wednesday April 23 2003
The Guardian
Charles Clarke will today tell members of the largest classroom teaching union that they risk destroying the reputation of the entire profession with their "antics" at the union's annual conference this week. 
The education secretary will dismiss the behaviour of militants at the National Union of Teachers' conference in Harrogate, claiming it amounted to "posturing and sloganising at its worst" which even politicians did not come close to matching.  
In a hard-hitting speech to members of the smaller National Association of School Masters/Union of Women Teachers at their annual conference in Bournemouth, Mr Clarke will also warn his critics that the culture of tests and targets so strongly opposed by the NUT and opposition parties is here to stay and that anyone who believed otherwise "is living in Alice's Wonderland".  
His remarks are aimed at the NUT's general secretary, Doug McAvoy, who on Tuesday launched an assault on the "creeping McCarthyism of the government and the civil service".  
The veteran union leader has complained of being frozen out by the government after he refused to sign up to a historic workload agreement in January which paved the   way for a much bigger role for classroom assistants in schools.  
In his speech Mr Clarke will tell the NASUWT why he boycotted the rival union's conference, while warning of the damaging impact of its threat of a far-reaching spell of industrial action on a number of different fronts.  
Mr Clarke announced his decision to stay away from the NUT's conference after it was the only union that refused to sign up to the workload agreement in January.  
Explaining his decision not to attend the NUT conference, Mr Clarke will say: "In my view nothing does more to depress the reputation and standing of teachers than to witness the annual antics that go on there. Posturing and sloganising at its worst. The sort of performances that the House of Commons or party conference never comes near to matching - even on a bad day.  
"And parents and the public think: 'Are these the people that teach our children?' Teachers are held in high esteem - but they will forfeit that esteem if they start back down the path of strikes, boycotts and sending children home."  
In contrast, Mr Clarke will heap praise on Eamonn O'Kane, the general secretary of the NASUWT, for his work which led to his organisation and other school staff unions   signing up to the workload agreement. "It has taken people of vision and courage to bring this about," he will say. "And I believe that the enterprise in which we are engaged will benefit not just your members but the whole teaching profession."  
The education secretary will strongly defend tests and targets, saying: "No one is saying that tests are the be-all and end-all of teaching or going to school.  
"But the basics are also important. The tests are here   to stay. And so are targets. When politicians come along and say 'away with tests and away with targets' then I have to say that they are living in Alice's Wonderland."  
The shadow education secretary, Damian Green, yesterday pledged at the same conference that a Conservative government would scrap the targets.  
Mr Clarke is expected today to launch a robust defence of the government's funding of schools amid growing concerns about huge budget deficits.  
But fears about the funding   crisis in England resurfaced yesterday, when the Conservatives published details of the 30 local education authorities which have the worst budget deficits as a result of this year's financial settlement.  
Ministers will also be summoned to the Commons when parliament resumes next week to explain the situation in an opposition debate.  
The shortfalls were caused by the cost of higher teacher salaries and pensions, the increase in national insurance contributions and loss of grants from the recently streamlined Department for Education and Skills standards fund.  
Mr Green told the conference: "Schools in these authorities are facing some of the most difficult problems in the country, with threats of teacher redundancies and larger class sizes soon to become a reality.  
"It is a situation that will appal anyone who ever believed Tony Blair's promise of 'education, education, education'."  
The Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Phil Willis, told the conference: "Delegates' schools cannot and should not engage in reforms to remodel the workforce in a climate where budgets are being cut."    
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited