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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 April, 2004, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
'Supermarket' future for schools
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Online at the NUT conference in Harrogate

Doug McAvoy
Mr McAvoy warns against creeping privatisation in schools
Top-up fees are on their way for school pupils, a teachers' leader says.

Doug McAvoy, addressing the National Union of Teachers' annual conference, accused the government of planning to privatise state education.

He claims parents will eventually have to pay a supplement for anything above a basic free education.

"The prime minister wants schools to be run like Tesco stores," said Mr McAvoy, who is stepping down as general secretary this year.

In his last conference speech, Mr McAvoy attacked the government for promoting a culture of commercialisation, which he claimed would lead to state education being partly-privatised.

Pay as you learn

"The same logic that the government applies to variable top-up fees for university places will be applied to parental contributions to the education of their children," Mr McAvoy told delegates.

The school of the future will be franchised, branded and sponsored
Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary

"The taxpayer will provide the funding necessary for the base level of education provision. Sufficient, shall we say, for the bog standard comprehensive.

"Extras will come on top of that. If parents want more for their children, why should the taxpayers meet those additional costs? After all, the additional education would improve their children's job prospects.

"The principle of free comprehensive education will be preserved in name and will be delivered as the free core curriculum. But additional teaching will be an optional, fee-charged extra."

The government's undeclared agenda, Mr McAvoy claimed, would mean the biggest changes since the 1944 Education Act. And he raised the prospect of an increasing role for private companies to take responsibility for public education.

'Air miles for school fees'

There would be privately-funded chains of schools run like chains of supermarkets, he says.

"The school of the future will be franchised, branded and sponsored," said Mr McAvoy. And like supermarkets and brands, there would be different levels of cost and quality.

"We'll have special offers. Two chemistry lessons for the price of one. Schools will be able to offer air miles."

The speech, which received a standing ovation from delegates, also attacked the government's "big freeze" in its non-negotiation with the biggest teachers' union.

The NUT leader's claims were dismissed as "bizarre" by a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills.

"Mr McAvoy describes a future he knows will not happen in order to gain a few cheap headlines. Most people will see it as the hot air that it is," he added.

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