Teachers tell ministers to let them do their job in peace

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Headteachers warned yesterday that ministers would frighten off recruits to teaching unless they stopped telling teachers how to do their job. They fear that the centralisation supported by the Conservatives will be taken up by the Government to tighten even further ministers' control over schools.

The heads' warning came as the Government announced that it intended to retrain all primary school teachers to teach reading according to approved methods. Bruce Douglas, the president of the Secondary Heads Association and head of Branston school and community college in Lincolnshire, said that the Government should reverse "a decade of over simplistic political prescription and de-professionalising". He said: "The real reason that teacher supply is at risk is that we have moved away from the idea that teaching is a big `can do' job where you can exert professional judgement and are allowed to do that. Talented people want to exercise their talents so they don't want to move into areas where they feel that their talents are being constrained by a hostile public and a hostile government." Applications for teacher training have been falling sharply, especially in subjects such as maths and science.

Mr Douglas argued that schools could construct timetables that would motivate the less able if they were given a bigger say in the curriculum. The national curriculum was unnecessary, he said, because all schools had been teaching English, maths and science anyway. He added that the time might have come for teachers to say no to the Government. "If it does lead to a conflict we should be prepared to to stand our ground. Otherwise we shall end up with a much smaller, meaner school system."