Clarke opted for fish and chips over NUT conference

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The Independent Online

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, said yesterday that he chose to spend his Easter Sunday eating fish and chips and playing mini-golf rather than address the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers.

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, said yesterday that he chose to spend his Easter Sunday eating fish and chips and playing mini-golf rather than address the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers.

Mr Clarke told delegates at the annual conference of the second largest union, the National Union of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, that he had enjoyed a relaxing weekend at his home in Norfolk while his political rivals addressed the NUT conference at which Doug McAvoy, the general secretary, delivered a blistering attack on the Government

As well as watching his beloved football team, Norwich City, storm to victory in two matches over the Easter weekend, Mr Clarke said he had opted to tuck into fish and chips and enjoy a round of mini-golf rather than travel to Harrogate for the NUT conference. He said: "I enjoyed my Easter weekend. I was at home having a break which I like to think was well-deserved. I spent my Easter Sunday eating fish and chips and playing mini-golf at Lowestoft.

"I missed the extraordinary spectacle of the general secretary making allegations in total contradiction of the facts: that this Government has a programme of privatising education and charging children to go to school and that the professional bodies have somehow betrayed the education service.

"It was an amazing set of allegations - that partnership or collaboration is somehow a betrayal of our children. I think it was an amazing set of remarks," he said. "All in all it's been a pretty strange Easter."

The Government and the NUT have been at loggerheads since the union refused to sign up to an agreement which aims to limit teachers' workload and increase the role of classroom assistants. The union refused to sign the agreement claiming that it would enable classroom assistants to take lessons in the absence of qualified teachers. Mr McAvoy used his final address to accuse the Government of being "hell bent'' on dismantling the state education system.

Mr McAvoy accused Labour of creating a "nightmare'' for state education and said ministers were planning wholesale privatisation of schools through commercial sponsorship and deregulation allowing "anyone'' to teach. But Mr Clarke attacked the claims made by Mr McAvoy that classroom assistants were being used to replace teachers. He said they were "simply malicious and seeking to mislead".

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