Have you noticed?

16th May 2003 at 01:00
I bet Charles Clarke wishes he had gone to the National Union of Teachers'

conference at Easter.

Without adult supervision, the urge to shout rude words, scrawl inflammatory slogans on the walls and throw paper darts at the DfES was clearly too much for the over-excited teachers. Sir's response - threatening detention and withholding spending money - was too little, too late.

As secretary of the local governors' association, I am on rent-a-quote duty during the conference season.

The local newspaper phones me at regular intervals to ask for "the governors' view" on a variety of contentious issues. What do governors think about teachers boycotting national tests and threatening to strike over class sizes?

I know what I think, but I try to be diplomatic, unwilling to offend the local NUT but aware of parents' sensibilities.

I point out that even David Bell, the chief inspector, has expressed concern about the effects of target-setting on schools. Wales has ditched key stage 1 tests and refused to publish primary league tables.

The next call is to ask for governors' views on Mr Clarke's pronouncement that it is local education authorities' fault that schools do not have enough money. Tact momentarily fails me. "I think he's got a bloody cheek," I yell. You may quote me.

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