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Monday, April 13, 1998 Published at 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK



UK

Blunkett sells the 'challenge of change'
image: [ The Education Secretary says teachers must work with the government if they want see change ]
The Education Secretary says teachers must work with the government if they want see change

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, has attempted to win round teachers to the government's reforms, describing the proposed changes as "not threats but promises".

He told the National Union of Teachers' annual conference in Blackpool that "the challenge of change" was "to give every child in the country the education the privileged have always received".


David Blunkett: "Education Action Zones are not for sale" (3'00")
Mr Blunkett faced opposition from the conference floor by members of the union opposed to the idea of Education Action Zones.

He responded to heckling from some delegates with a sharp put-down worthy of the firmest head-teacher.

"Shouting won't make a difference," he said. "All you do is put off decent people who want to come in to the teaching profession, that's all you do. But the comfort is that you're a very small minority."

Blunkett denies creeping 'privatisation'

The government wants to see 25 zones established by the beginning of next year, with each receiving £500,000. Schools would be run by forums which would have power to suspend national agreements on teachers' pay and conditions, as well as the National Curriculum.

Critics have condemned business sponsorship as a step towards the "privatisation" of state education, although this was strenuously denied by Mr Blunkett.

"I promise you there is no question of handing over schools to private enterprise to run," he said to applause. "Schools run schools and they will continue to do so."

The leadership of the NUT on Sunday persuaded its members to reject a motion designed to place the union in direct opposition to Education Action Zones.

General Secretary Doug McAvoy said "shouting for the side-lines" was pointless. But he insisted the union remained opposed in principle to the idea of zones.

'Teachers are partners'

NUT members have also threatened to strike over the growing bureaucracy in schools. Mr Blunkett told the conference this would have the effect of harming children.

On Monday morning, Mr Blunkett told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that teachers would have to work with the government to get what they wanted.

"My message today is that teachers - and I believe that they already understand this - don't need to see themselves as victims. They are partners in transforming the education system of our country in the interests of our children."

Electronic learning initiative

At the NUT conference, the Education Secretary also pledged £100m to create a schools' intranet to help teachers beat bureaucracy.

The initiative is designed to complement the so-called "national grid for learning" where all schools are to be connected to the Internet by 2000 and pupils will get their own e-mail address.

When Mr Blunkett finished talking, half the hall cheered, apparently convinced by his presentation, which had included a video showing enthusiastic teachers using technology to overcome the piles of paper getting in the way of them and the classroom. But there were also jeers.

In response, Mr McAvoy praised most, but not all, of Labour's policies.

"On balance, I believe over 11 months, we have had fairness. But I have to say I think it was unfair to name and shame schools," he said.

Mr McAvoy's speech was greeted with a standing ovation.








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