Blunkett gets tough with the militants

DAVID Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, yesterday confronted heckling teachers and told them bluntly to stop shouting and join the Government's standards campaign.

In a tough speech to the National Union of Teachers, the biggest teachers' union, he dismissed left-wing delegates as a "minority of a minority". He appealed to all teachers to stop seeing themselves as victims and to be partners in improving children's life chances.

Ignoring the shouted protests of delegates at the conference in Blackpool, Mr Blunkett set out a long list of the Government's achievements in education over the last 11 months, including a promise to spend more than pounds 2bn to improve buildings and raise standards.

Raising his voice, Mr Blunkett said defiantly: "Shouting won't make a difference. All you do is put off decent people who want to go into the teaching profession. The comfort is you are a very tiny minority."

There were cries of "Not enough", as Mr Blunkett detailed the Government's achievements and the extra money promised for education, including pounds 1.3bn to repair school buildings. Some delegates sneered when he played a video explaining how the Government intended to reduce teachers' workload by providing off-the-peg lesson plans and examples of good practice on the national grid for learning.

Members of both of the biggest teachers unions - the NUT and the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers - have voted for action, not including strikes, over the growing burden of paperwork in schools.

Mr Blunkett, who announced a series of proposals to reduce school red tape, warned teachers against taking industrial action over workloads: "Industrial action is not acceptable because it is bound to affect our standards agenda." He insisted that teachers must hold their heads up and urged them to believe in themselves.

At a briefing later, he admitted: "There is still some way to go to translate good intentions into good practice. That is partly because of this victim syndrome. People do think they are very hard done by - that makes it very difficult to relate to them even when you are make positive moves."

He made it clear that the Government's daily literacy hour and education action zones to raise standards in deprived areas were non-negotiable, despite the conference's opposition to them.

Mr Blunkett told the conference that they would not put up for a second with standards for their children which some people seem prepared to put up with for other people's children. He said: "You can be part of a real learning age when inequality and injustice can be set aside because at last we have given children real life chances."

The Government had not been able to wave a magic wand as many people would have liked but it had found an extra pounds 835m to save the education service, he said.

Despite some heckling, Mr Blunkett's reception was much better than that he received three years ago when he was jostled by left-wing delegates. Moderate teachers applauded him warmly.

Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, said that the Government's credit balance was fairly impressive but he won a standing ovation from left-wing delegates when he said it was unfair to name and shame failing schools.

Mr McAvoy said that the union's action over workload would go ahead before the end of the month, but he hoped it would be limited while he continued to press the Government for more concessions.

Will Reese of Coventry, a member of the Socialist Teachers Alliance, questioned Mr Blunkett's assertion that the Government was not a threat to teachers. "There remains a persistent thread of criticism about teachers. It almost seems as if they are being singled out."

Leading article, page 16

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Lavigne performing in Seoul at the beginning of last year
people
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Barista

£6 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This person must also have exceptional a...

Ashdown Group: Development Engineer - Slough - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Development Engineer/ Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Software Support Analyst - Level 2

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of financial software so...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?