Labour yet 'to capture hearts and minds'

10th October 1997 at 01:00
The Government is failing to get its message across to teachers who still feel demoralised and battered by change, according to a survey of the profession's largest union.

The responses of 3,572 teachers to a questionnaire from the National Union of Teachers on the Government's White Paper, Excellence in Schools, shows ministers still have a long way to go to capture the hearts and minds of the profession.

Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, said: "The good intentions of the White Paper have not filtered through to teachers, who still complain about excessive workload and poor public esteem. The NUT believes many of the Government's proposals are positive, but teachers feel bogged down by the same recipe of constant imposed change.

"It is going to be a big job for ministers to convince them that they are working for them rather than against them."

He believes it was the Government's decision to "name and shame" failing schools that put teachers on the defensive. Responding to members' concerns in the survey, the union has warned that Labour's drive to raise standards will fail if it "continues the practices of blaming teachers or giving undue emphasis to failure".

Teachers can expect little solace from the Government's document, Learning and working together for the future, which is intended to become its mission statement for the next five years. It examines the ethos within the Department for Education and Employment and its relationships outside. Not once does it address how its partnership with teachers should develop.

Estelle Morris, education minster, has admitted that her department must try harder to improve teacher morale. However, she will be further disturbed by the NUT's findings that most primary teachers do not see the value of national curriculum tests. Secondary teachers echoed their sentiments and staff from all sectors are opposed to league tables.

The vast majority were also opposed to the Office for Standards in Education although most agreed that schools should be inspected.

NUT members, particularly primary teachers, also wanted the national curriculum made slimmer and less prescriptive.

Judge the government by results, page 11

White Paper, page 14

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