Link to BBC Homepage

Front Page







World News in Audio

On Air


Talking Point


Low Graphics


Site Map

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

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage


Link to BBC Homepage

Relevant Stories

13 Apr 98†|†UK
Tough time ahead for Blunkett

19 Mar 98†|†UK
Blunkett spends lots of pennies

Internet Links

National Union of Teachers

Department for Education and Employment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online

UK Contents

Northern Ireland