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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 16:30 GMT
Heads: parent plans 'patronising'
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News education reporter, at the SHA conference

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Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has been accused of "patronising" head teachers by asking them to work with parents and government to raise standards.

Ms Kelly told the Secondary Heads Association's annual conference it was schools' duty to be "ever more responsive" to communities.

But head teacher David Peck, from Birmingham, said he felt "somewhat patronised" by the comments.

Some disgruntled delegates murmured "oh no" during Ms Kelly's appearance.

Former head teacher Tony Mooney, who has been attending SHA conferences for 15 years, said it was "one of the coldest receptions I've heard for an education secretary".

During her speech, in Brighton, Ms Kelly, reiterated her calls for schools to give parents more feedback on their children's progress and annual governors' meetings with parents.

She also said workforce reforms were freeing up more time to develop extra-curricular activities.

The speech comes a day after the government said it wanted more "tailored" learning programmes for children of all levels, including some "one-to-one" tuition.

Ms Kelly told SHA delegates that the curriculum would become less crowded, allowing more "flexibility" for this.

During her answers to union members' questions there were mumurs of disapproval.

Diploma options

Mr Peck, head of Moseley School, Birmingham, said: "I felt somewhat patronised to be told I need to start working on things I've been doing, and working very hard at, for many years."

He also said the government's decision not to implement all the proposals put forward to reform the 14-19 curriculum in England had been wrong.

The rejected plan to merge academic and vocational qualifications had been put together by people who "know better", Mr Peck added.

However, Ms Kelly said the new diploma for work-related learning would allow students to take both types of options.

This would mean leading institutions - like Cambridge and Imperial College London - taking students who had studied for the diploma.

Family expectations

Ms Kelly said: "This is the best chance to break down this barrier that we have ever seen.

"I've given it my best shot and, if we are serious about this, we have to offer every child at the age of 14 the chance to mix academic and vocational subjects."

Responding to Ms Kelly, SHA vice-president Sue Kirkham said: "We need support, we need encouragement and, above all, we need resources to do this job."

Earlier, the association's deputy general secretary, Martin Ward, said Ms Kelly's plans to involve parents more in schools were not workable.

Having "paid their taxes" families expect professional staff to run educational affairs, he said.

He did not "really think that parents want to work in schools".

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Baroness Walmsley said her party would "re-establish the trust between policy-makers and professionals" if elected.

Sponsorship pledge

The Conservatives say they would agree to a request from head teachers to scrap the requirement for would-be specialists schools to raise 50,000 in sponsorship.

Labour wants all schools to specialise in a particular subject, and says two thirds now do so.

But it requires them to attract private funding first. The Secondary Heads Association had called for this hurdle to be scrapped.

Shadow education secretary Tim Collins told its conference a Conservative government would remove the requirement.

"Links with local business are desirable - having heads and other senior teaching staff charging round an area with a begging bowl emphatically is not."

He added: "I want to see heads concentrating on managing their schools, not on fund-raising drives."

Labour offers tailor-made tuition
03 Mar 05 |  Politics
Labour adjusts test result target
04 Mar 05 |  Education

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