Secretary of State for a day

14th April 2006 at 01:00
Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers

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

I would abolish performance league tables. They encourage competition, discourage collaboration, place schools under pressure, cause teachers to teach to tests and undermine their confidence. They focus on alleged failures rather than the significant achievements of pupils and teachers, and fail to reflect the real achievements of schools in challenging circumstances.

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

I would give her 8 for her personal performance. She has endured more than her fair share of criticism, much of which has demonstrated that sexism and ageism are alive and well. She has weathered well a number of major storms.

She has never wavered in her support for social partnership and the national agreements it has secured, despite this being an agenda she inherited. Whilst disagreeing with her on some issues, the NASUWT has always found her to be fair-minded, constructive and ready to listen.

What makes your union the best choice for teachers?

Putting teachers first has made the NASUWT the largest union representing teachers and heads throughout the UK. Our philosophy is simple: we look after the teachers and they look after the pupils. Pupils have parents, governors, local authorities and many others to represent their interests.

Teachers only have their union. The NASUWT, therefore, focuses on improving their pay and conditions, defending their interests and providing the highest quality support, representation and advice throughout their career.

Whatever happened to teacher union unity?

It is simply not a priority issue for our members. Their message to us is clear: the NASUWT should continue to concentrate on improving teachers' and heads' working lives, not on endless debates about so-called professional unity. It has been social partnership, a unique example of unions working together closely and constructively to secure benefits for members, which has exposed the shallowness of the position of those who have made a virtue out of their commitment to teacher union unity. Unable to work in partnership, they preach but don't practice.

Which historicalfictional character do you identify with most?

For those who care about the quality of life of working people, George Loveless, a Tolpuddle Martyr, is an inspiration. No trade union leader has done more to fight for the right of all to live and work with dignity, integrity and decency.

What keeps you awake at night?

Some questions are best left un-answered.

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