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A long way from lacking Respect

I write in response to Jon Slater's report "Union slams lack of Respect" (TES, May 27).

As the new constituency MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, I am looking forward to a productive relationship with parents, governors and trade unionists in education in Tower Hamlets.

The basis for such a relationship surely lies in opposition to the divisive policies of new Labour and in the defence and promotion of comprehensive education. To this end, I have warmly accepted invitations to meet local heads and the East London Teachers' Association (a branch of the National Union of Teachers).

It is unfortunate that a remark I inadvertently made in the early hours of election morning has been seized on in a way that implies that I don't value the magnificent job that teachers and schools in Tower Hamlets are doing under difficult circumstances.

My remark about Tower Hamlets schools was made in the context of an attempt to draw attention to the acute levels of deprivation in the borough and the continuing attack on our public services by the Labour government.

I strongly oppose the use of private finance initiatives championed by the Government and promoted by the local council which have led to immense problems for the students and teachers in a number of the borough's schools.

I have invited everyone concerned with education to join me to discuss how we can celebrate the achievements that are already being made and how to make further improvement in the service for our children.

Respect condemns Labour's latest campaign to stigmatise young people and sensationalise poor behaviour in schools. We are appalled, for instance, at the imposition of an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) in the area surrounding George Greens school. Knee-jerk responses are not the way forward. We urge that the council join members of the local community in demanding its withdrawal. Solutions to the profound problems of disaffection and alienation in urban areas lie in long-term investment in the community.

Respect stood on a clear platform for education. We are committed to fighting for the resources to fund a fully comprehensive education system without the privatisation programme extended by the Government.

We want to see a radical reduction in class size; a qualified teacher in every class; improved pay and conditions for teachers, classroom assistants and other education workers.

We want to see an end to constricting national curriculum tests and an opening up of the curriculum so that it enables all children - regardless of their class or ethnic background - to achieve their full potential.

We are opposed to league tables which set school against school and create an ethos of competition rather than co-operation.

I intend to visit as many local schools as I can in the near future to pledge them my support as their constituency MP and to campaign for these policies.

George Galloway MP

House of Commons

London SW1

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