Hodge's parting shot blasts unions

11th September 1998 at 01:00
Teachers - or at least some of their leaders- do themselves few favours, according to Margaret Hodge, one of David Blunkett's new junior ministers.

"To the public they appear resistant to change, conservative with a small c, intent on improving their lot rather than that of the children they teach. This image harms the majority of hard working, dedicated teachers," she said in an article for the journal Parliamentary Brief.

Written before her promotion, when she was chair of the education select committee, Mrs Hodge said her proposals for a four or five-term school year and for teachers to be paid by results had made her a hate figure rivalling the chief inspector Chris Woodhead in some union headquarters.

"I'm not proud of this," she said. "But I make no apologies. My proposals are an attempt to develop ways to improve the status and quality of our teachers, to head off a recruitment crisis and to improve standards in our schools. "

She said the profession was failing to recruit the brightest graduates. A new pay structure, which would reward the best teachers, is needed to increase recruitment and retention.

As a junior employment minister, responsible for equal opportunities, Mrs Hodge can be expected to be less forthright. But during her leadership of the education select committee she was credited with raising its profile and producing influential reports on further education and recruitment. The committee also became notorious for its spat with Mr Woodhead.

Her replacement is due to be announced soon and will oversee the committee's inquiry into the role of heads and a forthcoming investigation of the Office for Standards in Education.

At present, the Labour members are taking turns to chair the committee, but as most of them are relatively new MPs (and stalwart Gerry Steinberg is not seen as a loyalist) an appointment from outside is expected.

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