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Minister denies confusion over education policy

THE Government yesterday angrily denied the charges of confusion and incoherence in education policies, made by Eric Bolton, the former senior chief inspector of schools.

Baroness Blatch, Minister of State at the Department for Education, told the Council of Local Education Authorities, meeting in Liverpool, that however distinguished Professor Bolton was, it did not follow that everything he said was worth listening to.

Professor Bolton, who retired as head of Her Majesty's Inspectorate last year and is now professor of teacher education at London University's Institute of Education, told the conference on Thursday that the present situation in education was unstable and unsustainable. The Government, he said, had no vision, some of its legislation was 'plain silliness' and it was not listening to heads, teachers and governors.

Baroness Blatch said that she had to answer his 'extraordinary' comments. The Government had put in place the national curriculum, provided for regular testing and assessment, insisted on systematic school inspections and ensured that parents were given information about pupils' progress.

She said that, since April, ministers had visited more than 50 schools or educational establishments and during every visit time had been set aside for talking to staff.

'The idea that we do not listen to people like HMIs, teachers, heads or local education authorities is simply blatant nonsense.' Hours were spent every single day doing just that, Baroness Blatch said. 'We include the voice of parents too.'

Professionals had given us education without structure, education without grammar or spelling and education without recognising the need to record progress, she said.

Earlier, Sir Malcolm Thornton, Conservative chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education, struck a different note. He said that Professor Bolton's views 'must be listened to, they command respect. If Eric is saying 'be careful who you listen to', then you cannot dismiss his views lightly.'