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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Teachers welcome new leader
Estelle Morris and John Prescott
Estelle Morris was liked by teachers' unions
Students and teachers wasted no time in giving advice to the new Education Secretary Charles Clarke.

They have welcomed his appointment, saying they are ready to work with the former party chairman as he takes on what some political observers believe to be a poisoned chalice.

In the past few months, the education department has lurched from crisis to crisis.

And there are politically difficult decisions to make.

Mr Clarke has experience of the education department, where he was junior minister for a year under David Blunkett.

And in the 1980s, he had a spell as a part-time maths lecturer at a college.

Doug McAvoy, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said he welcomed Charles Clarke's appointment.

Mr Clarke has many tough challenges ahead

Jean Gemmell, Professional Association of Teachers
"He has knowledge of the education department as a junior minister. He has always been approachable and clearly has influence with Number 10," he said.

"He has a massive task. There are many key issues to be addressed including teacher workload and teacher shortages.

"The NUT is ready to work with him and particularly on those issues that are supportive of pupils and teachers."


Estelle Morris had enjoyed strong support from the teaching unions, who liked the fact that she had been a teacher as well as her reputation for straight dealing.

While Estelle Morris was known to get on well with the teaching unions and said she was uncomfortable with media interest in her private life, Charles Clarke has a reputation for being a tough talker who likes confrontations with the media.

The Secondary Heads Association (SHA) says it hopes Mr Clarke will carry on the good work of Estelle Morris and not heap on more changes.

Sha's general secretary John Dunford said:"Charles Clarke is taking on a big reform agenda from Estelle Morris, including reform of the exam system, restoring public confidence in A-Levels, a better funding system for schools and reform of the teaching profession itself.

"We hope that he will be committed to this agenda and not feel that he has to introduce a range of unwanted new initiatives in order to make his mark."

During his time in the education department in 1998, Charles Clarke defended the reappointment of Chris Woodhead as Chief Inspector of Schools, warned local authorities they might become redundant and promoted the General Teaching Council, which became the professional body for teachers.

He also spoke out against the sell-off of school playing fields.

Restoring confidence

The Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) has also welcomed his appointment.

The union's general secretary Jean Gemmell said: "We look forward to working with him and wish him success in his new post.

"Mr Clarke has many tough challenges ahead - in particular, restoring confidence in the examinations system, implementing the reform package on reducing teacher workload and the use of support staff in schools, and improving the pay and conditions of teachers, lecturers and support staff."

Students are hoping Mr Clarke will be generous to them in the government's review of student funding the results of which are expected in the next month or so.


Mandy Telford, the president of the National Union of Students (NUS) said: "I think he will have his work cut out for him.

"Within a month, the government is expected to announce its funding proposals for students.

"I would like to see Charles Clarke listen to students and parents about what they need."

The other pressing matters on Charles Clarke's desk are the review of the A-levels after the Tomlinson inquiry and the mess caused by the collapse of the government's adult learning programme, the Individual Learning Accounts.

A report due out tomorrow is expected to criticise the way the scheme was set up and run.

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24 Oct 02 | Politics
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