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Last Updated: Friday, 25 March, 2005, 21:20 GMT
Teachers' head chides Ruth Kelly
By Gary Eason
BBC News education editor, at the NUT conference

Ruth Kelly
Ruth Kelly was described as 'patronising'
Ruth Kelly is the worst education secretary Labour has had, a teachers' leader has said.

Hilary Bills, incoming president of the National Union of Teachers, said Ms Kelly came across as "patronising".

She might be intelligent and a high-achiever but lacked the interpersonal skills to which teachers were accustomed.

Ms Bills was speaking at the NUT's annual conference, getting underway in Gateshead.

'Has talent'

"It's her interpersonal skills, the way she comes over," said Ms Bills, who is a primary school head teacher in Sandwell in the West Midlands.

"Teachers are in a people business and we use language and talk, and when she talks to people you just have that feeling she has a patronising style."

She added: "I'm sure she knows the issues but it just doesn't come across that way."

Ms Kelly, who is MP for Bolton, succeeded Charles Clarke, Estelle Morris and David Blunkett in her post, becoming the youngest member of the Cabinet.

Hilary Bills
Hilary Bills, incoming president of the National Union of Teachers

She had achieved a lot and had "lots of talent", Ms Bills said.

"I just think she is the wrong person at the moment for the job that we need."

'Encouraging'

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "Ruth Kelly is getting on with her job of raising standards in schools.

"The incoming president of the NUT, whom Ruth Kelly has never met, is obviously getting on with her job this weekend."

And the NUT's general secretary, Steve Sinnott, said: "The words are those of Hilary Bills. The views of the NUT will be determined over a longer period of time than just a few weeks."

Ms Kelly's contribution would be assessed later, he said.

He was scheduled to have his first formal meeting with the secretary of state on 7 April, but added: "My informal contacts with Ruth have been encouraging and I am looking forward to discussing the major issues of education with her."




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