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Blunkett enlists unions' help

DAVID Blunkett has urged the teaching unions to help him push through the Government's radical shake-up of the profession - and give schools a better chance of getting a share of Chancellor Gordon Brown's election war chest.

As the Labour party prepares for next week's annual conference, The TES has learned that the Education Secretary used a lunch with union leaders at the TUC's conference to enlist their help in his forthcoming battles with the Treasury for a slice of the pound;12 billion surplus.

Mr Blunkett told the general secretaries that if he could deliver on Number 10's twin goals of higher school standards and a modernised teaching profession, he would have more chance of getting cash.

Mr Brown is so far keeping a tight reign on spending ahead of next year's second comprehensive review which will set out spending plans - election victory willing - up to 2003. But Mr Blunkett, Health Secretary Frank Dobson and others in the Cabinet have already started lodging claims.

Some union leaders are open to Mr Blunkett's arguments - but still deeply concerned about how the new salary scale will be funded beyond the pound;1bn that has set aside for its first two years.

But David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, dismissed Mr Blunkett's pleas as blackmail.

"I'm not prepared to be subjected to some form of pressure that says there will be no money unless you sign on the dotted line."

Unions and ministers continue a careful dance over the Green Paper. Mr Blunkett offered another palliative in the form of a guarantee to the School Teachers Review Body - which will draw up plans for the new structure - that there will be no quota on teachers crossing the threshold to a pound;2,000 rise and access to salaries of up to pound;35,000.

That has always been the Government's line but the National Union of Teachers in particular has demanded to see it in writing. But Mr Blunkett made it clear he is pressing ahead with reform, gambling that even if the NUT formally opposes it, many of its members will take the money.

The union does appear to be softening. While still formally against payment by results, it has suggested that if teachers felt "comfortable" with the assessment criteria it could withdraw its opposition.

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