Secretary of State for a day

14th April 2006 at 01:00
We asked three union leaders how they rate Ruth Kelly, and what if they were...

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers

If you were Education Secretary for a day, what would you do?

I would introduce the State School Pupil Equalisation of Life Chances Bill, but I'd have to be minister for lifelong learning in Wales as well. The Act would build upon Chancellor Gordon Brown's last Budget.

It would oblige all future secretaries of state and ministers of lifelong learning to ensure expenditure on state school pupils at least at the level for pupils in the independent sector: a minimum of pound;8,000 per pupil rather than the current pound;5,000 per pupil, and pupil-teacher ratios could be no higher than those in the independent sector, 9:1 rather than the current 16:1. The quality of education for a child, and their life chances, would cease to be dependent upon the wealth of a child's parents.

All children would have access to a range of educational services often unavailable to children from poorer backgrounds, including personal tuition, residential experiences, cultural and sporting activities, and visits abroad.

All secretaries of state and ministers of lifelong learning would report annually on their actions to an education board composed of student, parent, governor, local authority, business, trade union and teacher union representatives. After finishing my time as Education Secretary and being given the post of International Development Secretary, I would make the case for similar provisions for all children in developed and developing countries.

How many points out of 10 would you give Ruth Kelly (and why)?

Three for a win; 2 for a score draw; 1 for a no-score draw and 0 when beaten.

What makes your union the best choice for teachers?

The NUT is the only union committed to professional unity; it is the biggest and the best.

What happened to professional unity?

It is still there. It is having a snooze but will be awake soon. Teachers know that our campaigns are weakened by disunity. In the campaign on the White Paper and the Education and Inspections Bill, the opposition of all the school workforce unions to the marketisation of education has not come across to MPs. Future generations of children may pay the price.

Which historicalfictional character do you identify with most?

Eamonn O'Kane the former general secretary of the NASUWT, who sadly died in 2004. His death was a great loss to education and trade unionism. He was a teacher trade unionist, radical in his thinking, committed to professional unity and not afraid to put forward controversial ideas and argue for them.

I hope I have some of his characteristics.

What keeps you awake at night?

Not being able to sleep.

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