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No firm favourites in the political field

Politicians have not covered themselves in glory as far as teachers are concerned. What they do appear to have covered themselves in is opprobrium, anonymity - or worse still, both.

Both Education Secretary Gillian Shephard and Labour spokesman David Blunkett were on the receiving end of three times as many criticisms as positive comments by focus group teachers, while a quarter could not recall the name of one or the other.

On the other hand, more than half of the sample did not remember that Don Foster was the Lib Dem spokesman until prompted; but then almost all the comments made about him were positive.

A High Peak junior teacher told researchers: "Gillian Shephard has, more or less, admitted that they've made a mess of it. I suppose she's got a few marks for bravery I David Blunkett is, well, he seems to be copying what's gone before, nothing really new, it doesn't seem dynamic enough. To tell you the truth, I've forgotten who the Lib Dem is I Don Foster, yes. He seems to be speaking some sense."

A Bristol junior teacher was almost as damning. On David Blunkett: "I think he's very unbending. The things he says are dismissing things that we've been working at for a long time. He seems to want to return to old values, without, perhaps, looking at the good that has been done. It's a bit too swingeing I think."

And Gillian Shephard? "She has got a bit of a headgirl image I I don't really take much notice of her. I forget she's minister for education. She's been very quiet of late."

Another Bristol teacher said; "Sometimes I wonder if Blunkett is Labour or Conservative, I'm not quite sure. Sometimes he opens his mouth and I'm horrified. I shall be studying that very closely."

Asked if any political personalities had any bearing on their voting decision, half the sample mentioned Labour leader Tony Blair - but positive comments were nearly balanced by negative ones. Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown was mentioned by half as many teachers but every comment was positive. And John Major's name was brought up by one teacher, who made a negative comment about him.

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