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EDITIONS
Sunday, 4 April, 1999, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Rough ride for Blunkett
David Blunkett
David Blunkett: "Every head knows who the good teachers are"
By Sean Coughlan in Brighton

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, has told a hostile audience of teachers that their threat of strike action over pay is "simply daft".

In a speech to the National Union of Teachers' annual conference in Brighton, Mr Blunkett refused to compromise on the principle of linking teachers' pay to performance.

Facing catcalls from the conference floor, he told delegates that without new structures for teachers' pay they could look forward to a future in which they would be "underpaid, undervalued and probably under another Tory government".

Unions 99
While offering the olive branch of further discussion over the details of the pay reforms, Mr Blunkett refused to give ground on the proposal to give extra rewards and promotions to the most able teachers.

"No one on their right mind would say that you should be promoted simply for being there a long time," he told delegates.

"Every teacher and every head knows who the good teachers are. The idea that teams can only be successful if they all get the same pay is not consistent with fact."

Mr Blunkett reminded the conference that teachers already worked in teams with different salaries - with teachers, classroom assistants and nursery assistants all on different rates of pay.

NUT delegates
Mr Blunkett's speech was interrupted by heckling from the floor
After tackling what he described as the "myths" surrounding the pay proposals presented in the government's Green Paper on the future of the teaching profession, Mr Blunkett told delegates that there was much to celebrate in the recent achievements of schools.

Failing schools were being improved more quickly than ever before, he said, while class sizes for infants were falling, crumbling buildings had been repaired, more pre-school places had been created, and exam results were improving.

Although the speech was interrupted several times by heckling from the floor - including the call to "bring back the real Tories" - Mr Blunkett's message seemed to go some way to meeting the union's anxieties over pay reform.

The NUT's General Secretary, Doug McAvoy, welcomed the assurance that there would be no simplistic linking of pay to pupils' results and that the process of consultation was "beginning and not ending".

However, Mr McAvoy warned the education secretary that the union would resist the non-negotiated imposition of performance pay "with any means available to us".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Listen to David Blunkett's speech in full
Video
The BBC's Sue Littlemore: "Ministers know that teachers' morale remains low"
Audio
BBC Education Correspondent Mike Baker: "Mr Blunkett has a special reason for announcing these figures at the NUT conference"
Video
The BBC's Lucy Wade reports
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