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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Teachers wooed by Blair
Mr Blair was received more warmly than predicted
By Angela Harrison at the ATL conference in Torquay.

Tony Blair seemed to win the approval of many teachers with a speech calling for a stronger partnership between teachers and the government.

Many delegates stood to applaud the prime minister after he had praised their "sheer hard work, skill and dedication" at the end of the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Before his speech, many delegates had been predicting a cooler reception for the prime minister.

Liz Coston, a teacher from Lewisham in inner London, summed up the mood of many: "I'm pleased he came, but that doesn't mean I like everything he's doing because I don't."

Q and A session

Like many delegates, she liked Mr Blair best when he'd finished his speech and was answering questions from the floor.

"He was being honest and showed that he really cares about education. His coming here shows that he values the profession, which is good."

Among the leaders of the union, there was approval of the call for more dialogue with teachers.

The union's general secretary, Peter Smith, told reporters: "He talked about partnership so much that he was talking about getting married rather than going steady."

'Bog standard'

But there was disappointment that there was no acknowledgement of the upset caused by Tony Blair's press secretary, Alistair Campbell, over his "bog standard comprehensives" remark.

Mr Smith said: "I don't think it would have cost him very much. It's unfortunate he didn't say it."

Dawn Strachan, who teaches in a Stockport secondary school, was sceptical about Mr Blair's motive in addressing the conference.

"He is very genuinely supportive of education but today he was electioneering.

"But I am pleased that he came to hear the union's point of view."

Slow investment

Jeanie Turner from Northamptonshire said there was nothing for her in the speech.

"He talked a lot about the need for long-term, sustainable improvements, but that won't help me as I only have 10 more years until I retire.

"It seems the money comes in slowly, but the initiatives come in quickly."

david hytch
David Hytch: Impressed
David Hytch, who is the president of the ATL's committee in Wales, said he had been very impressed.

"Many people would be reassured by what he said, especially about maintaining a diaglogue, but there is also a scepticism about the levels of progress the goververnment claims to have made."

Away from the conference, the chairman of the General Teaching Council for England, Lord David Puttnam, said: "This is a clear message that if the country's young people are to get the opportunities they deserve, the status of teaching must be transformed.

"The prime minister emphasised the unequivocal link between increased investment and getting the education services upon which the future of this country depends.

"That is why the commitment to raising the proportion of national income spent on education is so vital.

"The need to build on teachers' success and the commitment to work in partnership is also welcome. Teachers haven't always been allowed to feel like partners in the decision-making processes that affect their work and professional lives."

See also:

12 Apr 01 | UK Education
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12 Feb 01 | UK Education
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