A plague on both the parties, say heads

13th September 1996 at 01:00
No decent education without higher taxation, say headteachers. The second week of The TES State of Schools survey reveals that the politicians have failed to win the schools' vote. Frances Rafferty and Clare Dean report.

The political parties must do much more to put across their policies on education if they want to get the teaching profession on their side before the next election.

The TES survey reveals a deep-seated disillusionment with politicians and the effect they have had on schools. Only the Liberal Democrats can take some cheer. Of those heads who picked one party, 61 per cent said the Lib Dems had the best education policies, followed by 30 per cent who said Labour. Only 8 per cent chose the Conservatives, while Plaid Cymru won favour with 1 per cent.

A rather larger number, 88 per cent, said they thought taxes should be raised to put more money into education. The Lib Dems are the only ones who have said their party will put 1p on income tax to raise Pounds 2 billion for education.

Overall, 15 per cent of heads said they did not like any of the parties and almost a quarter could not or would not answer the question.

James Pawsey, leader of the Conservative backbench education committee, said he was pleased the survey showed support for a number of the Government's policies, including inspections by the Office for Standards in Education and a national curriculum for teacher training.

Mr Pawsey said: "The low percentage support for the Government seems to be contradicted by support for some of its policies. I am also amazed that 61 per cent say they support the Lib Dems and only 30 per cent say Labour when their policies are virtually indistinguishable."

Some heads admitted they did not know very much about the policies of Labour and the Lib Dems, others said they thought Labour and the Conservatives were becoming increasingly similar. One recurring plea was for education to be kept separate from politics.

"I feel it is a shame that politics is being involved in education. Labour and Conservatives are causing concern and trouble among the teaching profession. Both parties are after cheap political gain. They should not dictate their political views on our children.

"Our once proud teaching profession is rapidly becoming a laughing stock around the world. If only the public knew how much public money has been wasted by idiotic fools.. As a headteacher and parent of primary-aged children I am deeply concerned about the damage and mess our education system is in . . . it is a sick joke.

"Neither Labour nor the Conservatives have any real idea about how children learn and what is worse is that the very people who have tried so hard to make the national curriculum dinosaur work have lost morale and respect," said one primary head.

David Blunkett, Labour's shadow education secretary, said he found it depressing that heads were only interested in vague promises of money from other parties. He said: "I would have thought that our comprehensive policies on improving standards would have attracted them. We have also been very tough in our approach to the standards of leadership and appropriate qualifications needed. Some heads have reacted badly to this.

"It must be said that the 30 per cent is in marked contrast to the popularity of Labour as a whole - we are appealing to parents and young people and are not necessarily playing to the professionals. I am gratified that parents and the electorate as a whole are at least clear about the true programme."

Don Foster said: "Headteachers are sure of our policies because we have been consistent. Heads know that we are committed to funding education and whether they like it or not, they know where we stand on the future of GM schools. "

Additional research by Virginia Purchon and Gaynor Atkins

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