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The puzzle of New Labour

Like many of your readers I am genuinely puzzled and anxious about the effects of New Labour's policies on primary education.

Are we experiencing the re-professionalisation of primary teachers through the increased flexibility given schools over the non-core subjects of the national curriculum, the valuably detailed teaching approaches of the national numeracy and literacy projects, the Teacher Training Agency's new demanding standards including the mandatory national professional qualification for headteachers, and the long-awaited setting up of a General Teaching Council?

Or are we witnessing the de-professionalisation of primary teachers through the imposition of a neo-elementary curriculum, denial of autonomy and flexibility in respect of teaching methodology in number, reading and writing, a monolithic state-controlled programme of so-called "professional" development; a headship qualification which does not involve participants in scrutinising education policy, and the absence of any real power in an advisory-only GTC?

I don't know but I fear the latter. If my fears prove justified what implications will that have for the problem of recruiting teachers of academic ability, imagination and vision?

Professor COLIN RICHARDS

Formerly HM Inspector, staff inspector (DES) and specialist adviser for primary education (OFSTED) Ulverston, Cumbria

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