Election `97: Call to let teachers into education debate

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The Independent Online
A new Labour government must avoid falling into the same trap as the Tories of allowing prime ministerial interference in education policy, head teachers' leaders warned yesterday.

The general secretary and the president of the Secondary Heads Association, speaking at the union's conference in Torquay, both attacked the present government for placing the needs of the education system second to political dogma and party advantage.

The new Labour Party, showing signs of favouring a presidential style of government "reminiscent of the Iron Lady in her heyday" if elected on 1 May, risked letting spin doctors speak louder than schools in the education debate, said SHA general secretary John Sutton.

Mr Sutton likened the prime minister's office to a lighthouse beam sweeping the sea and focusing at any one moment on one area of government. The beam has been shining on education for some time, bringing the advantages of a high public profile and plenty of debate, but the disadvantages of "distortions of policy which derive from those different political imperatives which emanate from Downing Street."

The effect was to create policies which "derive from partisan dogma or from assessment of political advantage, neither of which necessarily relate to the real needs of the education system."

The SHA's leaders called on the next government to move quickly to re- examine funding in secondary schools.

Mr Sutton said: "If the next secretary of state is disposed to let the voices be heard, he will hear the clearest of messages, the Churchillian plea: `Give us the tools and we will do the job'."

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