Education: Labour's end of term report

Has the Government started to honour its election pledge to prioritise education? Experts give their mark out of 10
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BARONESS PERRY, Conservative peer, former director of South Bank University and HMI (super- visor of teaching and administration in schools). Now president of Lucy Cavendish College Cambridge. Mark: 6 out of 10.

"In higher education it's been a disaster. I can't tell you how angry I am with the Government. Removing student maintenance grants and introducing a tuition fee has hit the most deprived people in society. The only people who got grants were the poorer students. For mature students like mine it's an unclimbable mountain. They've got to find an extra pounds 6,000 a year. Very little of the fee money is coming in to improve universities. Overall, universities' money has gone down by 1 per cent. But I'm delighted to see more money going into further education.

On schools, I welcome the proposals for better induction for new teachers. But performance-related pay is not appropriate for the teaching profession. I would like to see a much better pay scale for all teachers, but professional ways of weeding out the poor performers."

TED WRAGG, professor of education, University of Exeter.

Mark: 9 out of 10.

"It's had a very good year. It put pounds 2,000 into each school for books, which was greatly needed, especially when you consider that a quarter of primary schools were spending pounds 5 or less per pupil per year on all books. The pounds 5bn on school buildings is also significant. We've had 20 years neglect of school buildings. Although there's argument about how much money will really be available, it's clearly a far bigger sum for buildings than ever before. I think it's the first time a government has done that. Reducing class sizes for younger age groups is a step in the right direction. The Green Paper on the teaching profession has a lot of good things in it. There are problems with performance-related pay. What stops the Government getting 10 out of 10 is the continuing emphasis from Downing Street on being tough, tough, tough on teachers. It is demeaning to the profession. The other negative thing was the reappointment of Chris Woodhead, Chief Inspector of Schools, on a huge salary increase."

BETHAN MARSHALL, lecturer in education at King's College London. Mark: 7-and-a-half out of 10.

"The Government is still far too keen to tell teachers what to do. It has put considerably more money into schools than the Conservatives - and that's a good thing. And the Green Paper will produce better salaries for the vast majority of teachers.

But the Government is still too prescriptive. I'm not sure it has yet got right the balance between supporting teachers and putting pressure on them. Chris Woodhead is still criticising teachers all the time. There is a crisis in recruitment and that has to do with status. And status is more than just money. You won't attract bright graduates if you're overly restrictive of the profession."

ALAN RYAN, warden of New College Oxford. Mark: 10 out of 10 for energy; 4 out of 10 for understanding the subject matter.

"It's very good at knowing that education matters and knowing it's scandalous if people can't read or write by the age of 14. But it's still too attached to old-fashioned egalitarian ideas and still too inclined to try to get its way by bullying people. There's too much naming and shaming; it's too attached to the bullying habits of Chris Woodhead; there's much too much emphasis on punitive measures against hopeless universities. And look at the way it's setting about further education colleges. It's all about control, punishment, inspection, telling people how to do things."

SHEILA LAWLOR, director of Politeia. Mark: 4 out of 10.

"The plus side: the Government has kept Chris Woodhead and allowed him to continue to work for higher standards, challenging the professional interest groups. It is going to allow higher pay for better teaching. The minus side is greater. There is even more central direction of schools and teachers, and less respect for the professionalism of the teacher and the autonomy of the school than under the previous regime. Plans to abolish grant-maintained schools despite their proven success suggest an ideological bias against autonomy. The assault on the good academic universities continues, particularly in the case of higher education minister Baroness Blackstone's vindictive treatment of Oxford and Cambridge."

NIGEL DE GRUCHY, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. Mark: 7 out of 10.

"The White Paper on fairness at work and the Green Paper on teachers have enormous potential but we don't know what's going to be delivered. If they flop and we don't get a successful outcome, then the marks would sink below five. We're not in favour of performance-related pay for teachers. Teachers should be rated for their skill, knowledge, and commitment as opposed to the outputs - exam and test results, which are influenced by the teacher but over which the teacher has nowhere near total control."

LAURIE TAYLOR, writer and broadcaster and former professor of sociology at York University. Mark: 7 out of 10.

"I've been pleased by the emphasis on further education, because for years further education has been underfunded and undervalued. Yet it is doing exactly what the Government wants in bringing education and training to more people. I'm very worried about the failure to recognise that new universities are discriminated against in the university hierarchy. I dislike the way this Government treats the universities as a level playing field, when new universities are also doing the function of many colleges of further education, taking people in and providing access, working out ways of providing courses with less resources than other universities. No measure of value added has been developed to right the balance."

MARTIN STEPHEN, High Master of Manchester Grammar School. Mark: 8 out of 10.

"Well-meaning, smart in appearance, very good when it comes to formal events, guaranteed to say the right thing. Shows signs of great promise, considerable flair and a real capacity for divergent thinking. Will probably be facing problems from some delinquents in the far corners of the classroom (grammar school backwoodsmen). Some interesting tests of disciplinary powers coming up (grammar schools again)."

DAVID HART, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers. Mark: 6 out of 10.

"The jury is out. The Government will get a lot of marks from people outside education for its drive to raise standards. But from the profession there's the distinct feeling we've been on the receiving end of a lot of pressure. Attempts to reduce bureaucracy have not worked. The end of 1998 is a defining moment in the relationship between teachers and the Government. Before the next election we will see whether the Government can deliver money in school budgets, support for a pay structure that recruits, retains and motivates and less bureaucracy."

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