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EDITIONS
Unions 2000 Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Education 'board game' ridiculed
Peter Smith waving monopoly money
Peter Smith entertaining conference delegates
By Gary Eason at the ATL conference in Belfast

A teachers' union leader is accusing the government of "playing Monopoly" with education services.

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), entertained his union's annual conference, in Belfast, by waving around a board from the game, and Monopoly money.


For children and young people and parents, education is much more than the equivalent of a political board game

Peter Smith

Teachers could get a 2,000 performance-related pay rise for passing "Go", he said, waving the cash.

Chris Woodhead, the head of the schools inspectorate Ofsted which delegates have repeatedly accused of causing undue stress to teachers, should "go directly to jail without passing Go," he said to more laughter.

Players who landed on a public utility could buy schools and education services regardless of their track record, provided they had enough money.

Mr Smith is alarmed at the way more and more education services in England, previously run by local authorities, are being contracted out to the private sector.

'Old Labour in an Armani suit'

Last month, Southwark education authority became the latest to announce it was seeking a private partner following criticism by inspectors from Ofsted.

"For children and young people and parents, education is much more than the equivalent of a political board game. It deeply, deeply matters," he said.

Peter Smith giving speech
Peter Smith: "Education deeply, deeply matters"

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had made a very public commitment to educating children.

But his government was being "as state-ist, as centralist as any government I can think of."

Some believed New Labour was merely "old Labour in an Armani suit."

What was the real issue?

"I think what we have been saying is this: Return to professionals the freedom professionals need to be professionals," he said, to applause.

Inspiring children

It was crucial that, with more than half the teaching profession being over the age of 45, it continued to attract high-calibre recruits, either from university - "the new kids on the block" - or from people changing careers.

It was crucial that these people were not alienated.

"We need those teachers who are Superglued to the job of inspiring children," he said.

"It's a very difficult trick to pull, and in my judgement this government has yet to crack it. It is impatiently lascivious for change."

At the height of Margaret Thatcher's premiership, no one would have predicted her being sent to "a political and ideological Siberia", or the Tories reinventing themselves within a decade.

"Tony Blair should remember that," he said.

"You can only govern by consent, and only if you have the teaching profession onside and engaged."

See also:

18 Mar 00 | UK Education
22 Mar 00 | UK Education
02 Feb 00 | UK Education
Internet links:


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