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Demand to register carers, not just cows

Delegates to the Professional Association of Teachers' conference hear calls for a childcare list and for dogs to be used as classroom assistants. Frances Rafferty reports from Southport

MINISTERS are acting irresponsibly and ignoring the risk to the young from paedophiles, by refusing to set up a national childcare register, a teachers' leader said this week.

Kay Driver, general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers, told members at their annual conference in Southport, that if the Government can log every cow on to a national database because of BSE, then it should be possible to set up a register for those working with children and young people.

She said: "If the Ministry of Agriculture can do this, can the Department for Education and Employment not tackle the question of a childcare register instead of whingeing that it would be a bureaucratic nightmare?

"When we think of all those children whose lives - in the presumed safety of children's homes - were so horrendous and dreadful, as well as prosecutions in the High Court, with a nanny moving from one home to another following serious injury or death, this is surely a matter for action now."

Ms Driver also called for voice training to become part of teachers' education. She said schools should have strategies to prevent teachers damaging their voices and the 35,000-member union would be approaching Lord Puttnam, education adviser and film producer, for support.

Her speech ended the conference, at which delegates - a third of whom are retired or supply staff - debated a number of motions ranging from the obtuse to the barmy. They voted to fine parents who clog up the streets during the school-run, and for children to be encouraged to walk. Wesley Paxton, a retired lecturer, said "Children need the exercise of walking or biking to school - they need to learn to use roads without them being like a grand prix circuit."

Jane Hetherington, a West Midlands council member, said no- parking zones should be set up a quarter-a-mile around schools.

A motion which described exams as a form of child abuse was defeated. Rosemary Wright, a music teacher in Calderdale, said the Samaritans and Childline recognised the stress of exams and that a more humane means of assessment was needed.

"Here we have a system that requires some young people to shun their less conscientious friends, shut themselves away from the glorious fresh air, and endeavour to learn facts and information and regurgitate a response to a question," she said.

Conference backed a motion targeting parents who remove children for holidays. Vivienne Hayward, a retired field officer, said some heads were fiddling the figures and marking absent children present.

Wendy Dyble, an infant teacher from Shetland, ended the debating session calling for dogs to be used as classroom assistants - a motion that was passed. She said they could be used for breaking up fights, licking up spilt milk and crisps, and sniffing out strange smells which children won't own up to.

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