Miles better

31st January 1997 at 00:00
Balloons, placards, chants, music, speeches. All the usual fun of the fair was well displayed at last Saturday's Glasgow rally organised by the local Educational Institute of Scotland.

There was the march itself, of course. Take your pick: did we see 10,000 or 20,000 or more? Estimates always vary so a problem-solving challenge, which might even prove beyond the mathematical skills of 13-year-olds from Switzerland and Japan, immediately suggests itself: how many people would take two hours to march from Blythswood Square to Candleriggs?

This was a march for education. It was, as Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, observed wryly "not quite the big march the Prime Minister had in mind with his army cadet force for schools".

Defence, in fact, turned out to be quite a theme. The defence of jobs was, inevitably, the number one priority. But May Ferries, the union's president, widened the attack: "Instead of Trident missiles, let's have smaller class sizes."

Trident was not the only Defence Ministry responsibility in teachers' sights. Smith asked ministers: "If you have a spare Pounds 60 million to provide a floating leisure palace for the Queen, give it to the schools and we will show you a real symbol of the nation's pride."

Thunderous applause for what was an effective speech. There was only one target left after that, former teacher and Education Minister Raymond Robertson.

Smith regretted that Robertson had not been able to show. "It's time Raymond Robertson became a minister for education," Smith declared.

Teachers fervently hope, of course, that Robertson's ministerial title will shortly be an irrelevance. Smith looked forward to the electorate giving the minister a taste of his own medicine and making him compulsorily redundant.

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