Trying to scale down escalator

12th January 2001 at 00:00
LIKE many heads, Sue Sayles was full of hope when Labour was elected three years ago.

But three years on, Mrs Sayles, head of Riccall primary, near York, does not feel that Labour has fulfilled her expectations.

"There was huge euphoria in schools when Labour was elected. Everybody knew there would be changes - and hopefully changes for the better," she says. "The reality has turned out to be very different.

"My teachers could not work any harder, and yet new initiatives have come in at a rate of almost one a week. They feel they are not on top of anything at all. They feel they are trying to run up a down escalator."

It was undeniable that Education Secretary David Blunkett has been passionate and driven about getting getting education recognised as a high priority, but hasty implementation has made teachers' jobs even harder.

This is particularly so in a school like Riccall primary where its 170 pupils are in mixed-age classes.

"Nobody would say that the literacy strategy isn't good - but it's the pace with which it was brought in," said Mrs Sayles, who is this year's vice-president of the NAHT. "It wasn't given long enough to bed in before umeracy was introduced."

Unlike many heads in the TES poll, Mrs Sayles has found that in terms of base funding her school is no better off than three years ago. Gordon Brown's windfall meant the school gained an extra pound;3,000, but being one pupil short of 200 meant the school missed out on a further pound;3,000.

Mrs Sayles' overriding concern about government policy of the past three years is the failure, in her eyes, of ministers to get to grips with the recruitment crisis.

"In the past three years I have lost two perfectly good teachers who opted to get out of the profession. The people I have recruited to replace them are both mature entrants and they say to me 'Nobody ever said it was going to be this hard'." This is scary, she says, given the Government's emphasis on recruiting mature people to the profession.

She feels her own job has become much more pressured since 1997. "Life under the Tories felt centrally controlled," she adds. "Life under Labour does not feel an awful lot different."

Euphoria evaporates: Head Sue Sayles says: "Life under the Tories felt centrally controlled. Life under Labour does not feel an awful lot different."

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