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EDITIONS
Friday, 9 April, 1999, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Failing schools policy denounced
delegates
Policy is 'dangerous rubbish' delegates told
By Sean Coughlan in Brighton

Teachers have voted against the government's policy of closing failing schools and have threatened to hold strike ballots in support of teachers made redundant by school closures.

Delegates at the National Union of Teachers' conference in Brighton voted unanimously to oppose the government's 'Fresh Start' initiative, under which failing schools are closed, to be re-opened later with a different name and under new management.

They accused the government of using classroom staff in failing schools as scapegoats, making them responsible for underachievement that had many other causes.

"Fresh Start has nothing to do with school improvement and everything to do with shattered morale," said a union executive member, Martin Reed. "If school closure is seen as a way of raising standards, nothing could be further from the truth."

'Destructive'

The government's moves to close schools that have not improved after being put on special measures for recovery were described as "dodging responsibility".

martin reed
Martin Reed: "Destructive policy"
Fresh Start was "redundant, reactionary - it devastates and destroys", Mr Reed told the conference.

The school closure policy was "dangerous rubbish" said Martin Powell-Davis, who argued that the scheme put the blame on teachers rather than on the underfunding of schools.

"A change of name and staff won't get rid of the problems," said Anne Antonio. She argued that issues beyond the school's control, such as the social deprivation of pupils, were the underlying reasons for educational failure.

The government's education policy was also under attack for its continued support for the Office for Standards in Education and its controversial Chief Inspector, Chris Woodhead.

A motion opposing the present inspection regime and the "idiosyncratic views" of Mr Woodhead was passed unanimously. The union called instead for a system of self-evaluation for schools, which would be monitored by external inspectors.

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