Devastated by minister's plans

I REALLY thought things could get no worse. Elected to Shropshire County Council last June, appointed as portfolio holder for education on its cabinet about three weeks later, diagnosed as having Motor Neurone Disease at the end of November, then Multiple Myeloma two weeks later, then aggressive treatment for the cancer, including a stem cell transplant ... It can't get any worse can it?

But then to hear of Education Secretary Estelle Morris's pronouncements about secondary education for the future - I was totally devastated.

Like Ms Morris (but several years before her) I went to Coventry College of Education, one of the most progressive colleges in the country in the mid- Sixties. After that I taught for 10 years in Leicestershire comprehensives from 1966 before becoming an education officer. I accept that there are some schools that do not perform as well as they should. I do not, however, agree with her proposal to hit the education system with her own version of a terminal illness. She should, instead seek to provide a positive treatment that will cure the present condition.

All of our secondary schools should be able to offer every child a high-class education. To do that each school needs to be able to offer the complete national curriculum and the full span of subjects at GCSE. Then there should be access for all to post-16 education offering a comprehensive spread of subjects.

To do that, in Shropshire, would require substantial improvements to government funding, but it is the only way to provide that fair system. Ms Morris's alternative approach will leave just as many children denied access to specialisms as the current system does in a rural community.

If, then, a school fails it should be picked up and improved. The whole purpose of Office for Standards in Education inspections was to check up on performance and aid improvement. Quality local authorities are committed to working with schools to ensure such improvement.

The other thing that should be improved is staff morale.Many teachers and non-teaching staff feel totally demoralised when faced with Tory policies from a party whose forebears introduced comprehensive education.

Jeremy Clarke

Liberal Democrat member Shropshire County Council

Foxleigh Villa

Love Lane

Wem, Shrewsbury

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