15th May 1998 at 01:00

Did David Blunkett really mean to liken teachers to steel-workers last week - raising the spectre of a nation of redundant pedagogues?

The example of steel looms large in the Education and Employment Secretary's mind, as you would expect from a former leader of Sheffield City Council.

It represents the danger of failing to adapt to the global labour market. Steel-workers thought their skills meant jobs for life - and teachers could fall into the same trap, Mr Blunkett warns.

"Teachers traditionally believed that if they stayed where they were and the profession stayed where it was that was their greatest security. It isn't," he told the Centre for Economic Performance's employability seminar.

"By thinking through change and helping equip themselves for it they can provide more security than the steel-workers I grew up with who believed their security was to hang onto the past."

Pray Mr B doesn't envisage our schools closing in the same way as the steelworks. Thousands of teachers teasing off gowns and mortar boards to the strains of Hot Chocolate to earn a crust Full Monty-style is not an appetising prospect. But maybe that's globalisation for you.

With a Cabinet reshuffle imminent, change clearly looms large in Mr Blunkett's mind. He confides: "There's no more uncertain ride than arriving at Number 10 in a ministerial car and leaving in a black taxi."

Scrutineers' spat II

Boycotts - a guide More sparring looms between The Man Who Inspects Schools For The Queen and the Woman Who Scrutinises Education For The Commons.

Relations between Chris Woodhead and Margaret Hodge have been chilly since the MP led an education select committee grilling of him earlier this year. Expecting to be quizzed on his annual report, the chief inspector faced hostile questions.

Now the ambitious Hodge, chair of the select committee, intends to submit new quangocrats to US-style "confirmation" hearings. Unfortunately the first prey in her sights is the yet-to-be-appointed Person Who Inspects The Inspectors.

Battle commenced in Parliamentary Brief magazine: on page 10 the Barking MP makes her pitch and on page 54 Mr Woodhead demolishes it.

La Hodge explains cheerfully that the committee should hold to account the Department for Education and its quangos. "Our first interview, which was slightly hostile with the chief inspector of schools (sic), demonstrated that he clearly does not see this as our role: I do," she says. Not only should it inspect the inspectors but someone else should as well, "and that might be a recommendation from any inquiry that we undertook into OFSTED."

"Confirmation hearings" of the likes of the OFSTED ombudsman would be used to set their thoughts on record "and for the public to see what they are like".

Mr W is not keen. "The adjudicator will only work for us a few days a year. What I would think wholly appropriate is for them to ask me to appear." And, he adds with relish, "I would enjoy that."

Boycotts - a guide

Difficulty understanding what bureaucracy to boycott? The National Union of Teachers has a simple guideline: "Members are advised not to take on work refused in their schools by members of NASUWT." Still, heads need not worry. After all, they can always dump the extra paperwork on PAT members.

Susan Young

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