"We are proposing serious money for serious modernisation,'' he told headteachers. "The Government, supported by the wider public cannot proceed without that fair exchange.'' His speech, to the National Association of Head Teachers in Cardiff, the first ever made by a serving Prime Minister to a teacher union conference, was seen as highly symbolic of his personal crusade on education. Mr Blair also used the opportunity to make clear his intention to push through reforms to the profession.
Mr Blair, who received a standing ovation from delegates before and after he spoke, stressed the extra money for education must be paid for by professional reforms.
He said: "Our intention is that there should be a proper, formal assessment of the achievements of teachers who reach the top of the normal pay scale and wish to go higher. Annual appraisals should become part of the system, including an assessment of the progress made by pupils.'' David Hart, NAHT general secretary, said: "I welcome what appears to be a softening of the line on linking pay to exam results, but we have to see what that means in black-and-white terms.
"If the Government is not prepared to shift I don't think teachers are prepared to negotiate.'' Mr Hart said he would take up the PM's offer of a dialogue between the profession and government. "Anyone in their right minds who thinks they can turn away pound;1 billion of additional pay is living in cloud cuckoo land."
Mr Blair was applauded for criticising councils who spend excessively on bureaucracy, rather than delegate the cash to schools. He announced pound;10 million for a National College for School Leadership - the so-called Sandhurst for heads - which will open next year with residential facilities and state-of-the- art ICT.
He talked of a quiet revolution that will see well-trained heads taking over the running of schools from council officers. Mr Blair promised to modernise comprehensives, with specialist and beacon schools and said that there would be no return to the grammar-school system.
He said: "I have met people whose rejection at 11 was the most devastating thing in their life."
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