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What happened to fun, delegates ask

The end of another academic year brings the start of another Professional Association of Teachers' annual conference.

Newly-installed general secretary Kay Driver, juggling with the issues of nanny registers, recruitment and retention of staff and performance-related pay, may have her work cut out.

Delegates will discuss target-setting, nursery education and working conditions, but the agenda of the no-strike union also features a feast of eccentricities.

Representatives from the 40,000-strong association will be lamenting the "decline of fun" in primary schools and whether it is at least as important for a teacher to be a non-smoker as to be a graduate.

They will also deplore the "battery farming" that is being imposed by the Government in early-years' education, and question whether formal teaching of literacy and numeracy may be damaging to the under-fives.

Lisa Potts, who was injured shielding children from a man armed with a machete at St Luke's primary in Wolverhampton, two years ago, will be made an honorary life member of the PAT in recognition of her bravery. She belongs to the Professional Association of Nursery Nurses, which is incorporated into the PAT.

Ms Driver, who will have been in the job for barely three weeks when the conference opens in Cheltenham Spa on Monday, said: "We will be campaigning very strongly for the creation of a nanny register and it is poignant that we should have Lisa Potts attending this year.

"We do not see how the Government can implement schemes such as the Welfare to Work programme without making proper arrangements for the children of those going into employment."

Ms Driver added that she wished the PAT to become more involved in the debate on recruitment and retention.

"These are crucial issues when we have so many top graduates shunning teaching and taking up careers elsewhere," she said.

The conference will be addressed by Stephen Byers,the school standards minister, and opposition education spokesmen, David Willetts and Don Foster.

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