Scrap `parent power' reforms say teachers

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The Independent Online
Leaders of the biggest teachers' union yesterday challenged the Government to reverse key "parent power" reforms of the last 15 years.

The National Union of Teachers wants an end to the publication of league tables and power over school admissions returned to local authorities. Local councils, not parents, it said, should have the right to determine the future of the remaining grammar schools.

The union's package of proposals for the Government's forthcoming education White Paper will bring it into conflict with ministers.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, has said the publication of examination league tables, designed to help parents choose schools, will continue and that the fate of existing grammar schools will be decided by a parental vote. He has said the Office for Standards in Education, (Ofsted) which oversees school inspections, will remain.

Under the union's plans, schools would set their own targets and be inspected by local authorities. If they failed to meet their targets, they would have to explain why. Local authorities would be inspected by Ofsted.

Publication of league tables would cease. Instead, local authorities would give parents information about schools' success in meeting targets.

Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, denied that the proposals would undermine parent power.

"Parents don't have power over admissions now. It's a myth that you can choose a school for your child."

He also contested the view that the union's ideas conflicted with Mr Blunkett's: "I don't think we start worlds apart. I don't accept that these proposals are inconsistent with what Mr Blunkett has said."

However, he agreed that the union and the Government took different views over selection. "Our view is that there should be no selection. It is not consistent of the Labour government to agree that there should be no more selection and at the same time say nothing about selection where it exists."

Mr McAvoy rejected the idea put forward by local authority leaders that teachers should be judged by their children's success in meeting performance targets.

"You cannot take pupils' achievement as a measure of a teacher's competence or capability," he said. "The purpose of targets set for schools ought to be to give teachers an incentive, not as a tool for management to identify weaknesses."

Mr Blunkett will today announce an extra pounds 5.5m for the careers service. He will tell the Careers Service National Association they should use the money to target 16-year-olds who leave schools without qualifications and those who end up on the wrong courses and drop out. Mr Blunkett is anxious to cut out the waste which occurs because young people fail, or fail to complete, vocational courses or A-levels. One survey estimated that the cost was around pounds 500m.