A Week in Education

13th April 2007 at 01:00
IT WAS just like the 1980s. Enraged at attempts to keep their pay rises below inflation, the country's two biggest teaching unions set the Government firmly in their sights this week, threatening national strike action.

Baljeet Ghale, the National Union of Teachers' first black president, opened the union's annual conference in Harrogate with an attack on the requirement that schools teach British citizenship.

For some, she said, defining what it meant to be British meant excluding others. "To demand that people conform to an imposed view of Britishness only fuels that racism," she said.

The Department for Education and Skills described her views as nonsense.

She retorted: "I think the Government is in denial."

NUT members voted to campaign against racist and fascist staff, commending schools that had ousted British National Party teachers and governors.

Mean-while they demanded support for the promotion of black teachers to combat a misogynist street culture among black Caribbean boys.

New official guidance offered an alternative solution to dealing with bad behaviour: praise and prizes. For every occasion a teacher criticises a bad pupil, five reasons should be found to praise them for good behaviour, the Government said.

First to ignore the advice was Alan Johnson, who criticised pupils for cyber-bullying their teachers. Speaking at the NASUWT teachers' union conference in Belfast, he imposed a "moral obligation" on websites such as RateMyTeachers, MySpace and YouTube to stop the increasingly prevalent attacks on teachers.

Teachers' unions got hot under the collar too, objecting to "greenhouse"

classrooms, saying global warming and glass-walled academies created intolerable working conditions - and body odour. The NUT demanded a temperature limit of 26 LESS THAN C.

The union also criticised retailers infiltrating schools with book and computer sponsorship programmes, while selling pink and black lingerie and pole-dancing kits in the children's section.

Tesco said the pole-dancing kits were bought mainly by adults looking to improve their fitness.

Unions, pages 4 and 5

THEY SAID...

Discipline is getting worse in super-size schools (Conservative party)

WE SAY...

Big schools are, allegedly, approaching breakdown. So itis unfortunate that figures purporting to prove it are in no better state.

The Conservatives' argument that super-size schools - or those with more than 1,000 pupils - excluded more pupils was tempting, not least because it appealed to advocates of human-scale education, who believe the anonymity of larger schools creates unruly pupils.

Unfortunately, the sums did not add up. Schools of more than 1,500 pupils actually have fewer exclusions per head than their smaller counterparts of 1,000 to 1,500 pupils.

Additionally, figures showing there are fewer exclusions in smaller schools are not surprising, given that many of them are primary schools, not usually renowned for their violence and gun crime.

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