McAvoy: Labour dismantling state schools

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The Independent Online

The Government is "hell bent'' on dismantling the state education system, the leader of Britain's biggest teachers' union declared yesterday.

The Government is "hell bent'' on dismantling the state education system, the leader of Britain's biggest teachers' union declared yesterday.

In his final address to the National Union of Teachers' (NUT) conference after 29 years as general or deputy general secretary, Doug McAvoy accused Labour of creating a "nightmare'' for state education. It was planning wholesale privatisation of schools through commercial sponsorship and deregulation allowing "anyone'' to teach.

In his most strident condemnation of ministers and of the teachers' unions that have gone along with plans to allow unqualified classroom assistants to take lessons, he said: "Those that went along with New Labour's agenda to destroy the education service will rightly be judged as having betrayed the profession and the nation's children and young people.''

He accused Labour of dismantling the 1944 Education Act, which set up today's state education system, adding: "How ironic it is, that the movement towards the Act was led by a lifelong Conservative while the movements away from it are led by Labour ministers.''

In Tony Blair's brave new world, he told delegates, they were seeing "tentative experiments'' in privatisation "accelerating into complete deregulation, privatisation and globalisation''. He said: "Schools will be established like supermarket chains providing branded packages of services. So- called good schools will be able to franchise their products. The school of the future will be franchised, branded and sponsored. To you it should be a nightmare prospect. To New Labour it represents progress, modernisation and the future.''

But Mr McAvoy, who won a standing ovation from delegates for his speech, said that parents were turning against Labour's policies. "The day of reckoning is coming towards New Labour at a rate of knots. "Parents want the best for their children. The NUT wants the best for their children. Parents could and should be our most powerful allies in opposing that which we believe is harmful to education.'' He was "appalled" by the actions of the other five teachers' unions, adding that Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, "must have got it right - he calls them collaborators''.

Mr McAvoy's speech received short shrift from the Department for Education and Skills. A spokesman said: "Mr McAvoy describes a future he knows will not happen to gain a few cheap headlines. Most people will see it for the hot air that it is.''

Teachers at the conference also backed a call for a ballot of nursery and reception school teachers about a boycott of the assessment of four-year-olds.

* Delegates at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers conference in Llandudno also threatened industrial action yesterday. They said they would disrupt schools across England if local education authorities attempted to switch to a six-term year under the biggest shake-up of the school calendar in 130 years.

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