Robust criticism eluded me

15th November 1996 at 00:00
While I agreed with much of your editorial "Tough mandate" (TES, November 8) I confess I failed to spot the "robust criticism of NASUWT tactics from within the labour movement".

I did hear some wimpish criticism from two Labour MPs, Margaret Hodge and David Jamieson on Radio 4's Today programme (October 31) prior to my own interview on that programme. By 3pm on the same day David Blunkett had arranged for his PA to telephone me to disown their comments as news of The Ridings' closure broke.

Before being interviewed on the World at One (November 7) I had to listen to "criticism" (such as it was) from the general secretaries of the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, assuming you include the latter within the "labour movement".

Doug McAvoy's cryptic comments served only to emphasise the wisdom of his previous policy of silence. Peter Smith's comments lived up to his customary high standards of eloquent obfuscation and ambiguity. The ATL's attitude is so flexible that Peter understandably has problems remembering yesterday's position. Those with longer memories recall his TES quote of the week (September 6) "the state funds schools which employ teachers to teach all children, not just those who are as good as gold".

The NASUWT never suggested 61 pupils were unteachable. We were still considering the list case-by-case when the new headteacher dismissed 35 of the youngsters concerned to the satisfaction of NASUWT teachers at the school. I know of several other schools which have found similar percentages of "unteachable pupils".

If further examples are presented to us where "mass expulsions" are necessary to restore good order then the NASUWT will respond in exactly the same way and The TES will simply have to be "astonished".

NIGEL DE GRUCHY

General secretary

NASUWT

5 King Street

London WC2

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