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Sunday, 4 April, 1999, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
We lost touch, admit Tories
David Willetts addresses the NUT conference
David Willetts addresses the NUT conference
By Sean Coughlan in Brighton

The Shadow Education Secretary, David Willetts, has told a teachers' union conference of his regret that the Conservative government "lost touch" with the teaching profession.

Unions 99
In an effort to build bridges between his party and the education sector, Mr Willetts told delegates at the National Union of Teachers' conference in Brighton that he had come to "listen and to learn".

Although he faced heckling from the floor, Mr Willetts pressed on with a speech which denounced the present government's education policies.

He eventually drew a grudging round of applause for his suggestion that the introduction of performance-related pay for teachers should be postponed until alternative approaches had been examined by a panel of independent experts.

'Ill-thought out'

Mr Willetts's speech, the first delivered by a Conservative shadow education secretary to the NUT conference, attacked the government's "flow of initiatives" as owing more to public relations than to worthwhile policies.

The Conservatives wanted to "free teachers from the burden of bureaucracy" and to allow schools greater freedom from the centralising instincts of the government, said Mr Willetts.

And he condemned the government's proposals on performance-related pay as "unworkable and ill-thought out".

Mr Willetts added that although many teachers had voted for the present government in the expectation that things would be better, many had found that the situation within schools had got worse.

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15 Feb 99 | UK Education
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