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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 April, 2004, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
How did Clarke's speech go down?
By Gary Eason
BBC News Online education editor, in Llandudno

How did Charles Clarke's speech to the NASUWT teachers' union conference go down with delegates? BBC News Online spoke to some of them afterwards.

Mike Chapman, recently retired head teacher from Bolton

Mike Chapman

"On the whole, quite good. It was quite a 'cosy' speech - I have some concerns about that. We agree on the major issues but I can see that in the future there will be major differences."

He said that, for example, under the workload agreement, primary school teachers would have 10% of their time out of the classroom for such things as lesson preparation.

"It's not at all clear where the funding for that is coming from. He didn't mention that. He didn't give me any feeling that it was secure," he said.

Sue Peach, English and drama teacher in an 11 to 16 secondary school, from Northamptonshire

"There were a lot of worthy aspirations but not a lot of substance as to how they were going to be delivered.

Sue Peach

"But at least he is prepared to have a dialogue.

"More flexibility in the curriculum is realistic if the funding and time is there. It's very difficult for our disengaged youngsters to see the pathway.

"Some of my students are doing work-related education but as Charles Clarke said it tends to be for the less able, who tend to be the more disruptive element who are getting too big for classroom desks and chairs and have too much energy.

"It needs parents and the community on board to enable that to happen."

John Peebles, primary school teacher from Worksop, Nottinghamshire

"Who is going to run the extended school day, and who is going to pay for it?

John Peebles

"I take residential visits and accept the union says I shouldn't - I think it's valuable for kids.

"However, we need to make sure there's adequate training, adequate protection against genuine mistakes."

And Mr Peebles said funding should be allocated according to the curriculum need - not the number of pupils on the trip.

Helen Baillie, primary school teacher from Broseley, Shropshire

"He was vague. He didn't want to leave us with anything.

Helen Baillie

"He made a speech that's OK and doesn't upset anybody but it's what he does next year that matters."

In her school, teachers traded the time they were supposed to spend on training days for after-school clubs, such as netball and chess.

"We have been in leagues, won medals and everything but it's totally voluntary."

Rob Applegate, secondary school science teacher from Ludlow, Shropshire

"I agree with more flexibility but we need the backup to put it into practice. We need the time, the money, the resources to put it in place properly.

Rob Applegate

"It will work for some pupils, it won't work for all. It will still leave the bottom percentage, however big - it varies from school to school - who aren't going to be engaged by that because no-one has come up with anything that will work for them.

"It manifests itself by their simply saying 'why should I be here, why should I do this?'

"You give them all the standard answers about education but they say 'I'm never going to get a grade C'.

"I think Charles Clarke understands that, but he is not going to scrap the league tables."

As for extra-curricular activities - "the murmuring around the hall when he was speaking was, that's what we do for free - and yet we are expected to do it."

Alison Morgan, secondary school special educational needs co-ordinator from the London borough of Sutton

Alison Morgan

She said she had refused to listen to Mr Clarke's speech, in protest at his refusal to attend the conference of the National Union of Teachers.

"If it's not good enough for the NUT it's not good enough for the NASUWT. Where has the trade union solidarity gone?

"We elect politicians, they are our servants not our masters. I think there's far too much kowtowing going on."

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