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Union loses its deputy in reshuffle

A fierce attack on Government education cuts was launched at the NAHT conference, report Frances Rafferty and Clare Dean. For an organisation fighting to save the position of deputy in schools, the National Association of Head Teachers found itself in the uncomfortable position of trying to explain to delegates why it is getting rid of its own.

David Burbridge, the union's long-serving deputy, was not at the conference. Under the union's restructuring plans his position no longer exists. Instead the NAHT will be advertising for two directors - a plan which sounds all too familiar to branch secretaries who have seen deputy heads become the casualties of "restructuring schemes", particularly in grant-maintained schools.

The reorganisation, a response to a critical report by consultants Coopers Lybrand, also involves dividing up the country along Department for Education boundaries. This means taking on more regional officers, and also increasing the number on the union's council.

One delegate said: "It was a difficult beginning. In many ways the reorganisation is the best way forward, but change often causes casualties. The change of boundaries has meant change in personnel and there was also concern that the union has treated David Burbridge unfairly."

There had also been an attempt to change the union's name to the National Association of Headteachers and Deputies. But this was voted out. One delegate was convinced that the NAHTD was a hairdressers' union.

After a shaky start, there was also bad news. Tony Benn MP who had been due to speak to the conference was called back to London for an emergency debate in the Commons on Bosnia. The invitation had been controversial, and failed to endear the union to David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, who was denied a slot.

However, there was a reason: the president George Varnava had taught Mr Benn's children when he worked at Holland Park school, west London.

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