Four out of five for 'bearded' Shephard

19th April 1996 at 01:00
The morning after the night before's by-election disaster at Staffordshire South-East was not the most propitious time to address a teacher union but Gillian Shephard made the best of it (page 16).

The Education and Employment Secretary arrived at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers in Glasgow to hear Peter Cole, president and chairman, advise: "Conference may have to listen very carefully because it may be the last opportunity it will have."

Shephard instantly replied: "Mr President, I think you said that last year." Recognising it was not Cole, she hurriedly added: "Or someone who looks like you."

She was perhaps referring to the grey-beards who dominated the platform. What does that say about the teaching force?

The Education Secretary continued: "It is a pleasure to have a personal welcome from the back of the hall. We are not in Cardiff are we?" The National Union of Teachers had obviously made an impression.

Mrs Shephard, unruffled by the opposition, dutifully ran through a prepared text and fielded five questions from the floor. But nursery vouchers proved her undoing. It was "disappointing", she said, that delegates were talking about councils and schools and not about children and parents.

"Shame," cried the delegates.

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