Local grumbles at Labour policy

Interim policy document highlights discontent with education policy at grass-roots level. Frances Rafferty reports

LABOUR party activists have warned the Government that it is not listening to teachers, according to a policy paper to be presented to delegates at next week's annual conference in Blackpool.

The National Policy Forum document outlines the party's rolling programme of policy development. The elected forum has eight separate commissions. Health, crime and justice, welfare reform and Europe will be debated this year in full.

The education and employment commission will present an interim report, based on consultation with constituency Labour party members. It will present a full policy statement in 2000.

It details the Government's education and employment policies to date: its commitment to cutting infant class sizes, increased spending on school buildings, expansion of nursery education and the New Deal - a Pounds 3 billion programme offering training and employment opportunities for young people. With two Education Acts already in place, education has stolen a march on other areas of policy.

The report lists concerns which were expressed during consultation. The Isle of Wight CLP said the Government is not listening to teachers, but the commission said a General Teaching Council will ensure teachers have a professional body that is respected and listened to. "The Party will also be looking at ways of involving more teachers as stakeholders in education, " it said.

A number of CLPs are sceptical of education action zones. This month, the first 12 zones - publicprivate partnerships running schools in deprived areas - were launched. The commission noted a "perception running through submissions that EAZs amounted to privatisation by the back door". Luton South's submission said EAZs could lead to a loss of democratic control of education.

The report said there was no question of privatisation. "No one has a monopoly of ideas of how best to raise school standards. In partnership with the government and private sector, LEAs are able to lever in additional resources to modernise schools and help equip deprived communities with a better range of educational opportunities to succeed."

The Office for Standards in Education was also singled out. Hastings and Rye CLP considered school inspections to be as, "confrontational and lacking in meaningful dialogue with teachers".

None of these issues is likely to receive full debate. Resolutions can be be put forward on "contemporary issues" - matters arising after the forum's report. One insider said: "There will be resolutions, but they won't amount to much."

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