I thought it was a stunning mix of charisma and committment;What the heads said about PM's speech;NAHT Conference

4th June 1999 at 01:00
"I was pleased that the Prime Minister came to speak to us and doing so has shown a commitment to education. It was a very impressive performance. But in the back of my mind is the feeling that the Government feels it needs to talk to heads to sell the more controversial aspects of the Green Paper. It hasn't changed my ideas about performance-related pay."

John Peck, head of Peafield Lane primary, Nottinghamshire.

"It was good to hear Tony Blair acknowledge that the Government cannot do it without the support of heads and teachers - their approach has been very confrontational up to now. I'm still concerned about pay being linked to pupil performance and the possibility of having teachers in the same school on up to five different pay scales."

Viki Baynes, head of Freemans Endowed junior school, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

"I thought it was a stunning mix of charisma and commitment. He alluded to wasted potential, but for me he didn't go far enough to show how education fits into the wider picture of social inclusion. I agree with Blair's comment about the danger of labelling children as failures at 11, but that is effectively what happens. It should be a matter of celebrating children's progress as well as attainment."

Janet Pidgeon, head of Wellington primary school in Waltham Forest, London.

"I was honoured that the Prime Minister came to talk to heads. During my career teachers always seem to be in conflict with the Government and it is a nice change to have Blair saying 'let's work together' - that's a sea change. It's unlikely that we will agree on everything but if both sides are willing to talk we can get somewhere.

However, he talked about a long tail of underachievement that he wants to tackle, yet he's basing primary-school assessment on every child reaching level 4 - there is some conflict there. I was also pleased to hear that local education authorities will be made more accountable, as Derbyshire is one of the lowest-funded authorities in the country."

John Smith, Warmbrook junior, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire.

Chris Johnston

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