Teachers' wish list unveiled

8th April 2005 at 01:00
Teachers delivered 4,000 wishes this week as Prime Minister Tony Blair called the election for May 5 and promised increased investment in education if Labour wins a third term.

The first TES Readers' Manifesto, compiled from three wishes made by 1,300 teachers, answers Mr Blair's challenge that the future of education lies in the hands of voters.

Teachers have called for more freedom from testing and targets for their pupils, more money for their schools and a new respect for the professionalism of teachers.

As Mr Blair announced the polling date, he promised "a rising investment in every school, every pupil, every teacher, so that all our children get the best start in life".

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, told an audience of leading City figures earlier that education would be the top priority in Labour's election manifesto. He was expected to make a speech over the weekend committing Labour to raising education spending in every year of a third-term government. Labour is expected to set a target of 90 per cent of 17-year-olds in education or training by the next election.

A TES poll last month revealed that teachers were disillusioned with Labour, showing support slumping from 43 per cent in 2001 to 29 per cent now. Support for the Conservatives dropped from 10 to 9 per cent, while the Liberal Democrat vote from teachers rose to 20 per cent from 18.

A poll conducted for Sky News by YouGov on Tuesday put Labour and the Tories neck-and-neck on 36 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats on 21 per cent.

A backlash against centralised control dominated the teachers' wish list.

Teachers said pupils' education was being stunted by an over-reliance on testing and targets, and their lives were being blighted by paperwork.

Worryingly for Labour, which is pitching itself as the party of public-service investment, several said they taught in "Dickensian" buildings. And many teachers still said their wish was for smaller classes, despite the Government's success in reducing class sizes for most infants.

Tim Collins, shadow education secretary, said the Conservatives would fulfil teachers' wish for more freedom. He said: "We will enable schools to meet the priorities of pupils, parents and teachers rather than have their priorities dictated to them by central government." They would also respond to complaints about violence by giving heads more control over discipline.

The Liberal Democrats have promised to act on demands to abolish league tables and reduce the number of tests. They also promise to spend pound;1.5 billion on reducing primary class sizes. Phil Willis, education spokesman, said: "British children are now the most tested in Europe yet there is little evidence that the Government's obsession with testing and targets has improved standards."

A new teacher who is losing her job this summer in a school reorganisation won the Make Three Wishes competition. Rosie Ridgway (pictured right), from Whitworth special school in Durham, wins a cruise in Greece.

She wished for her pupils to grow up happy, for her school reorganisation to be a success and for her to continue to learn and grow throughout her career.

News 6-7, fe focus 3

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