'Froth' fails to excite unions

12th July 1996 at 01:00
Electoral froth was how one teacher union leader described Tony Blair's sales brochure, New Labour; new life for Britain.

"This is not a message to the education world, rather a series of statements intended to impress Middle England where the electoral battleground is being fought. It shows Tony Blair does not have a grasp of the reality on the ground in schools," said John Sutton, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association.

His opposite number at the National Association of Head Teachers was also underwhelmed and unimpressed with the commitment on class size. However, as a piece of propaganda he found it impressive. David Hart said: "The Labour party has been very clever in the way it has hijacked the issue of standards from the Conservatives. But the bottom line is the amount of money schools will receive in their budgets after year upon year of cuts.

"If schools don't get more money a new Labour government's honeymoon could be very short."

One promise to parents is that poor teachers will be removed from their jobs quickly. But both the unions and employment consultants are unconvinced. Professor Michael Barber, one of the party's advisers, said in a recent speech that if proper quality control measures were taken, an incompetent teacher could be removed within two months.

Maureen Cooper, director of Education Personnel Management, said: "It seems extremely unlikely that employment legislation will be radically changed to make changes to get rid of teachers.

"However it may be that the Labour party will have to persuade some local authorities with over-long disciplinary procedures to tighten up the timescale. "

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