Fancy spending a week with an MP?

18th March 2005 at 00:00
William Stewart previews the likely hot topics at the upcoming conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers

With fears over unruly pupils growing, you would think the last thing teachers would want is more name-callers and hecklers in the classroom.

But proposals to be discussed next week could see teachers take responsibility for the behaviour of their local MP as well as their pupils.

And despite the reputation of MPs for rowdiness in the Commons chamber, the suggestion is coming from teachers.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers is expected to debate a motion calling for all MPs to have a week's work experience in a state school in their constituency "in the pursuit of a deeper understanding of the actual workings of schools". John Williamson, who will be seconding the motion at the union's conference in Torquay, believes it is essential that MPs should know more about education.

"A lot of the legislation they put through has had a significant effect on practice in schools," he said. "They should understand how these changes can affect teacher morale."

But could an MP provide practical help in the classroom or just get in the way?

And what of sort of teachers would they make? Barry Sheerman, chair of the Commons education select committee, is realistic. "I think there will be some brilliant ones, most would be average and some I would not allow in a classroom at any price."

The Labour MP for Huddersfield, a former lecturer at Swansea university, tries to visit a school, college or university at least once a fortnight and believes his colleagues could benefit from similar experiences.

"It sounds like a wonderful idea to me, but I don't know how practical it is.

"There is already a similar arrangement with the armed forces. Whether we would ever be allowed to get anywhere near a student, I don't know," said Mr Sheerman.

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