School standards minister Stephen Byers (TES, January 23) has a point. Teachers did indeed oppose the imposition of the contract in 1987, along with shadow education ministers.
That is why I have been careful not to criticise all the ideas which surround the Government's plans for education action zones. Presumably, if the Government wishes to attract teachers to work in action zones, the overall pay and conditions package must be improved.
I await with interest Mr Byers taking me through the argument for a better contract for the late 1990s. I have tried to do precisely the same thing with past and present ministers and with the School Teachers Review Body, unfortunately to little effect. I did not detect any of those arguments in the latest Government submission to the STRB.
However, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers does not need action zones to pilot new ways of thinking in respect of teachers' conditions. We are quite capable of doing such thinking ourselves. Indeed, the NASUWT suggested a vehicle for doing this which Mr Byers personally turned down just a couple of months ago.
I can assure Mr Byers that the reason for teachers' defensiveness is that they suspect the Government wants to worsen an already appalling contract.
It would also help if teachers read about these ministerial thoughts via their unions rather than through reports in The TES about conversations with the Society of Education Officers.
NIGEL DE GRUCHY
General secretary NASUWT 5 King Street London WC2