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EDITIONS
Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
New minister courts heads
David Miliband
David Miliband got a warm response from delegates

Introduced as a 12 year old in a suit because of his youthful looks, the new Minister for School Standards, David Miliband, appears to have won the hearts of head teachers by speaking of his passion for state education.

In his first speech since taking office last week, Mr Miliband, 36, told delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers annual conference of his pride at having attended a comprehensive school in London where 64 languages were spoken.

"I am here today because of state education," he told delegates in Torquay.


There is talent in every child and education can release it

David Miliband
"My comprehensive school may not have got me close to mastering physics A-level, but it gave me a sense of enquiry and got me into university," he said.

"If we can get our state education system right, we can renew our economy, improve our quality of life, strengthen our communities."

Mr Miliband went on to champion the cause of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, saying they too had the right to a good education.

"Our case should be clear - there is talent in every child and education can release it."

Violent pupils

The minister was warmly applauded when he gave his full backing to head teachers over the disciplining of unruly pupils and the need for parental support.

"When children arrive at school unready to learn, teachers cannot teach. When parents cannot control their children, how can teachers be expected to do so?

"When parents are more concerned to attack teachers' judgement than punish children's behaviour, then the education system cannot work properly," he said.

"I have one simple message to you and anyone else listening or watching - when it comes to parents, children or anyone else abusing teachers, this government is 100% unequivocally on your side."

'Hard-bitten audience'

NAHT general secretary, David Hart said the speech had gone down well with delegates.

"He got a better response than I thought he would - and this is a hard-bitten audience.

"They don't just roll over because he says what he thinks are the right things."


We want to see David Miliband's excellent speech translated into real action

David Hart, NAHT
The minister's passionate commitment to state education, his conviction towards the underprivileged and his commitment to investing in people would be qualities NAHT members would welcome, Mr Hart said.

Mr Hart said the minister's clear intent to work with head teachers had made industrial action less likely next year.

Just before Mr Miliband's speech, delegates had voted overwhelmingly in favour of staging a work-to-rule over workload, unless the government came up with a solution by the end of the year.

"What he said today I think reduces the chances of us having to move into a confrontational position but the proof of the pudding is in the eating," said Mr Hart.

"We want to see David Miliband's excellent speech translated into real action."

See also:

29 May 02 | UK Education
06 Jun 02 | UK Education
05 Jun 02 | UK Education
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