Teachers suppress the truth about their past

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The Independent Online
The National Union of Teachers has decided to suppress a history of its last 25 years which it commissioned at a cost of more than pounds 10,000.

The union's leaders, after agreeing last week not to publish it themselves, are likely to try and prevent the author - Stephen Bates, a former education journalist on the Guardian and the Daily Mail - from finding another publisher. The NUT General Secretary, Doug McAvoy, has told him: "We have paid you the agreed fee and we have the exclusive publication right."

What Mr McAvoy and his colleagues apparently expected was a conventional trade union history, reverently listing the names of past heroes and making defeats sound like victories. Instead, they got a more astringent account of a union that now represents half the teaching profession against more than 80 per cent in 1970, and which has lost not only its control over the school curriculum, but its rights to negotiate its members' pay.

Teachers, concludes Mr Bates, "have lost influence and ceded most of the control over the debate to national politicians". In the introduction to the 82,000-word book, he writes: "For most of the last 25 years . . . the NUT has been an organisation at war with itself, divided in its counsels and uncertain of the path it should follow. It has been denigrated and its importance considerably reduced." He quotes a damning verdict from the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock: "The NUT has not managed to translate the respect of the public for individual teachers into a respect for teachers collectively."

Mr Bates criticises "some members of the national executive" for "posturing and indecisive leadership". By failing to tackle the extreme left within the union, they have lost their head teacher members, Mr Bates argues. If the hard left takes over, "the union will be reduced to a rump without influence or effect on the political debate".

At first, Mr Bates' work was well received. Mr McAvoy wrote to him in March: "Congratulations on producing such an immensely readable and perceptive manuscript." There were two areas he wanted to discuss. Then, says Mr Bates, "everything went quiet and no one would talk to me about it". Over the next three months, Mr McAvoy cancelled nine meetings with Mr Bates.

n A teacher has won pounds 95,000 compensation after being attacked by a 13 year-old girl. The pay-out is believed to be the highest ever paid for injuries caused by a pupil, writes Fran Abrams. The female teacher, who does not want to be named, was attacked by a pupil at a special school in the Midlands three years ago, and was forced into early retirement as a result.

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