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Saturday, 3 April, 1999, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Labour's 'designer deceit' over education
Peter Smith
Peter Smith says too much spin could harm Labour's credibility
By Sean Coughlan in Brighton

The leader of one of the big teachers' unions has complained that "designer deceit" by the government is in danger of alienating the very teachers it needs to deliver on its election promises.

Unions 99
Peter Smith, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the prime minister had to curb his "control freak" tendency and engage in a proper dialogue with teachers.

He told the association's conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, that otherwise the government's attempts to improve education would result in a "pre-Millennium flop" to go with the other failed attempts of the past 25 years.

He called on the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, to announce a delay in implementing the new appraisal system teachers are due to have from this autumn, to which pay increments will be linked.

Teacher
Peter Smith says the government should stop and listen to teachers
He said the government appeared to be "running to a timetable which has more to do with winning the next election than making changes in schools, in classrooms, which are durable".

"If the government is not willing to curb its notorious impatience then they will have another flop on their hands, and next year's Easter conferences - and the year after, and the year after - will be full of the complaints, the gripes, the grumbles, which sometimes people outside the profession cannot understand," he said.

He challenged Mr Blunkett to establish a proper means of ongoing dialogue with teachers' representatives, to replace the existing "first class letter" means of communication.

The other plank of his complaint was the 'spin' the government tended to put on its announcements - such as that the literacy hour was working, when teachers were reporting all sorts of problems. Or that fresh money was constantly being put into education, when often it had been announced before.

"If this government comes to be thought of as a government which specialises in chateau-bottled chicanery, designer deceit, which values pagers above principles, then a fickle electorate will turn away. They will see politicians as being part of the problem not part of the solution," he said.

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