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Cynicism greets Blair's review

Teachers are complaining that the annual report glosses over workload increases. Nicolas Barnard reports.

THE Government's annual report tells only half the story when it comes to education, teachers' leaders complained this week.

It trumpets successes without mentioning failings, unions said, adding that ministers had created many problems by not listening to teachers.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's introduction to his Government's third annual report reaffirms his commitment to "education, education, education", and highlights the improvement in primary standards.

The next task, he says, is "to make our secondary schools, particularly those in the inner cities, improve just as fast".

The chapter on education boasts of the rise in key stage 2 test results, cuts in class sizes, increases in spending per pupil and the number of leaky roofs which are finally being fixed. But it warns that transforming the schools service "will take years of investment and reform".

"Rebuilding run-down facilities, raising standards or encouraging more teachers to train in areas like maths and science cannot be done overnight."

It also highlights the beacon and specialist schools programmes, the Excllence in Cities initiative - which now covers 450 secondary schools - and the expansion of nursery education.

But Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the report was "more of a political advert than an objective account".

"On balance, the record has been better than under the Tories. But the report makes no reference to the huge increase in teacher workload and stress," he added.

The National Association of Head Teachers welcomed the recognition of serious teacher shortages, but said the Government had no long-term plan to address them. And claims of extra money would not impress heads who saw too little of it.

"I think the report underestimates the degree of cynicism among heads on the basic issue of funding," David Hart, the association's general secretary, said.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "You either issue an annual report which is subject to independent audit, or you don't do it at all."

He praised the Government's focus on tackling disadvantage and its literacy and numeracy strategies, but added that there was a complete lack of joined-up thinking.

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