Omnipresence of God and mobiles

7th April 2006 at 01:00
God, camera-phones and the defence of boring lessons will be debated at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' annual conference in Gateshead next week.

Delegates will vote on Tuesday on proposals to ban the teaching of creationism in state schools and to stop public funding of faith schools by 2020.

The Government's white paper, published last autumn, included plans to make it easier for faith schools to opt into the state sector in a bid to bring Islamic schools into the mainstream.

Up to 60 private Islamic schools will enter the state sector during the next decade. The first new entrants are expected to join the existing five Muslim state schools in September next year.

The motion proposed by the ATL's Brent branch warns: "The Government's policy of increasing numbers of faith schools will hinder integration, foster religious divisions and provide fertile ground for religious and ethnic conflicts."

Reverend Chris Wilson, the Association's honorary secretary, said he backed the motion. The Unitarian and Free Christian minister said: "I believe a lot of the people driving the faith schools debate want support for these schools to be seen as the settled position of those with faith. But that is a misrepresentation of the views of many of us who are religious."

Brent, led by Hank Roberts, ATL executive member and campaigner for a single teaching union, has also tabled a resolution calling for an urgent review of the union's decision to enter into social partnership with the Government.

Mr Roberts questioned whether the ATL had been treated as equal partners in the relationship.

He said: "We have had to put up with things in England that have not happened in Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is the whole testing regime, academies, I could go on all day.

"Gains on pensions and workload were made after the threat of unified action by all three teaching unions. I think it is time for some old-fashioned trade unionism."

The two motions are among 57 that will be debated by the 400 teachers expected to attend the four-day event at the Sage conference centre on the banks of the Tyne. Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, will use her speech on Monday to call for changes to the national curriculum. She will also launch a stinging attack on the education Bill and the Government's plans to create new trust schools.

Camera-phones are the subject of a resolution from teachers in Northern Ireland attacking yet another form of classroom observation.

It calls for schools to ban the use of camera-phones in class and calls for an end to the "increasing incidence" of parents tape recording interviews with teachers.

And boring lessons? Teachers from East Sussex and Brighton and Hove plan a spirited defence of the dull.

Michael Boakes from St Richards Catholic college, in Bexhill, will argue that teachers' lessons are being unfairly judged inadequate by Ofsted inspectors and senior school staff because of the antics of a disruptive minority of pupils.

The motion states: "A boring lesson is not necessarily a failure and therefore not inadequate."

It might explain why pupils are so keen on the camera-phones, though?

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