Contentious motions that will get them going

18th April 2003 at 01:00
EDUCATION Secretary Charles Clarke's decision not to attend this year's National Union of Teachers conference will not mean a shortage of political theatre.

The agenda contains no less than nine potentially divisive calls for industrial action on issues ranging from pensions to privatisation.

The leadership is also likely to table a late motion threatening strikes in areas where funding problems lead to redundancies.

Although upset by Mr Clarke's snub, general secretary Doug McAvoy will be glad to avoid the traditional Easter portrayal of NUT delegates as an unruly rabble.

The left positively welcomes Mr Clarke's absence because it will give them more time to vote on policy issues. Ian Murch, a leading member of the left-wing Campaign for a Democratic and Fighting Union, believes the absence will lead to a less factional conference. "It is likely to lower the temperature and make us focus on the things we agree about," he said.

Members in Blackburn with Darwen have called on the leadership to show commitment to professional unity by giving every member a diary, in line with "existing good practice by ATL and the NASUWT".

Meanwhile, Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the NASUWT, said he was optimistic that Mr Clarke would get a warm response at their annual conference in Bournemouth because of the tough stance he and fellow ministers have taken on discipline.

Bad behaviour will be a key issue at the conference after a year in which NASUWT members took industrial action in 27 different schools where members refused to teach violent or disruptive pupils.

Delegates are expected to call for local authorities and governors to be even tougher on problem students and for schools to help teachers tackle low-level misbehaviour in the classroom. The union will also be unveiling research on racial harrassment of teachers and the exam overload that pupils face.

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