Breakaway union vows to be nice to Woodhead;News;News and opinion

26th November 1999 at 00:00
A NEW union for primary school teachers was launched today with the promise of a closer relationship with Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector.

Primary Plus, has been formed by members of the National Association of Head Teachers who felt that the union should not have complained to the Director of Public Prosecutions over Mr Woodhead's relationship with a former pupil.

But the new union claims that most of its 180 members are classroom teachers. The association includes nursery workers and classroom assistants and has a non-voting section for parents.

Ministers who already complain about having to deal with six teacher associations, will not be happy to hear of a seventh.

But its leader, Jim Hudson, headteacher of Two Mile Ash middle school in Milton Keynes, said Mr Woodhead has taken a close interest in the new association, which aims to have 10,000 members by this time next year.

Mr Hudson said the union does not wish to be seen as "pro-OFSTED" but added:

"We don't want to be a union that shouts. We want to be a union which has a good enough relationship with these people to be able to whisper and be heard.

"What we want is to put the children's interests first and to have a constructive dialogue with the Office for Standards in Education and with the Government.

"We agree with much of what Mr Blunkett has to say but we want more thought about the detail. For example, if a class of 31 or 32 pupils is working well, there is no point in changing things just to get it down to 30."

The union will not follow a no-strike policy of the type adopted by the Professional Association of Teachers. It will offer the usual benefits of legal advice, insurance and a 24-hour helpline.

David Hart, general secretary of the 32,000-member NAHT, said: "I certainly don't see these people as a threat. In fact I can count the number of people who have resigned from the NAHT over the Chris Woodhead issue on the fingers of one hand. "To have yet another organisation representing such a wide group of people is a recipe for confusion and weakness."

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