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 its 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. Ms Ghale retorted: "I think it's in denial."

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

They also called for support to promote black teachers to combat a misogynistic street culture among black Caribbean boys.

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

First to ignore the officials' advice was their boss, Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, who criticised pupils who cyber-bully their teachers.

Speaking at the NASUWT conference in Belfast, he imposed a "moral obligation" on websites such as MySpace, RateMyTeachers and YouTube to stop the increasingly prevalent attacks on teachers.

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

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

The union also criticised retailers infiltrating schools with book and computer sponsorship programmes while selling pink and black lingerie and pole-dancing kits in their children's sections. Tesco said its pole-dancing kits were bought mainly by adults looking to improve their fitness.

they said...

'Discipline is getting worse in super-size schools'

(Conservative party) we say...

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

The Conservatives' argument that super-size schools - or those that accommodate more than 1,000 children - excluded more pupils was tempting, not least because it appealed to advocates of "education on a human scale"

who believe that the sense of anonymity in larger schools creates unruly pupils.

Unfortunately, their argument does not add up. Schools of more than 1,500 pupils actually have fewer exclusions per head than their smaller counterparts of 1,000-1,500 pupils.

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

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