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What the teachers say

TONY Blair has said his government's agenda to raise standards has meant a combination of pressure and support for teachers. But has he got the balance right?

"I wholeheartedly agree that schemes like the literacy scheme were needed. But I feel the Government is getting it wrong because it is working to political deadlines. New schemes are introduced without proper evaluation or giving schools the time to plan.

"The pressure on teachers and schools is constant. We are in a world driven by results and deadlines and teachers have to learn to live with it."

Kate Bloomfield, head of English, Oakwood School, a mixed comprehensive in Horley, Surrey.

"Most people at this school voted Labour and I think most of them are now wondering why. The flavour of this Government seems much more hardline than the one it replaced. I don't think that teachers are valued by this Government - a straw poll of (10) teachers in the staffroom showed that not one of them felt valued either."

Martin Tibbetts, headteacher, Cheslyn Hay Primary School, Staffordshire,

"I think they have done many positive things, for example the New Deal for Schools. But we have got into a situation where we have to bid for so much rather than it coming naturally. Many of the initiatives like literacy and numeracy have been important. The summer schools are a good idea. There have been many positive things, but one of my pet dislikes is league tables. It's important for parents to have information about individual schools but the information must be put into context."

David Veal, head of Coteland's School, Ruskington, Lincolnshire

"I don't think Mr Blair has quite got the balance right. I think thre have been very good intentions but some have been rushed and put significant pressure on schools. He still has not convinced teachers that he really does value them, despite the PR efforts. Many still feel unrewarded financially and yet they are being asked to achieve more and more."

Martin Mathews, head of Hastingsbury school and community college, Kempston, Bedfordshire.

"The real concern is the feeling that the Government is not recognising our professionialism; so much is now being dictated from the centre by civil servants and special advisers. The Teaching Awards could be seen as a good thing, recognising the successes of the profession, but many of us are still wary and do not want to put ourselves forward as being better than the rest of our staff."

Liz Paver, head of Intake first school, Doncaster

" I think we are all accountable for our practice in the classroom, however, the soundbite culture still gives the impression that all teachers are at fault.

"I understand real efforts are being made by the Government. There are initiatives around which are really good and useful - for example ICT training - but I feel the balance is too much on inspection."

Jan Blemmings, co-ordinator of learning resources at Henry Cort school, Fareham, Hampshire.

"I believe the Government is working hard and its motives are genuine. I don't think anything great is ever achieved without enthusiasm, therefore it is important that whatever the Government does has to generate enthusiasm from the people who deliver the programmes."

Andrew Clark, head of Pickering county junior school, Pickering, North Yorkshire.

Maureen McTaggart and Sarah Cassidy

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