Shephard arranges talks with unions: Minister makes clean break from Patten

GILLIAN SHEPHARD, the new Secretary of State for Education, has made a clean break from her predecessor and has arranged talks, beginning today, with the teaching unions.

Only days into the job, Mrs Shephard told her officials to arrange meetings with the teaching unions.

That contrasts starkly with the attitude taken by John Patten, sacked in last week's reshuffle, who started in the post by boycotting the unions. The continuous battle with teachers over testing - with parents largely supporting the unions - sapped the education department's morale and showed up its lack of imagination. Teachers were successful in a huge campaign of civil disobedience over the tests at 7, 11 and 14. When Mr Patten, after refusing to meet the teachers, described a parents' group as 'Neanderthal', collision courses were set.

Mrs Shephard, a former teacher and schools inspector, has made it plain that she wants peace in schools and consensus with the unions. Today, she will meet the National Association of Head Teachers. George Varnava, a vice-president who will be at the meeting, said: 'She approached us within 48 hours of her taking the job. We are delighted that she has acted in completely the opposite way from John Patten.'

He said they wanted to ensure that paths were smoothed for curriculum development and testing. 'We want to see past conflicts over testing disappear.'

On Thursday, Mrs Shephard will meet the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. The NUT, but not the NASUWT, is continuing its tests boycott.

Doug McAvoy, the NUT general secretary, said: 'We are looking forward to meeting her and hope it will be a productive dialogue. If there is a blank piece of paper and we are invited to talk about our concerns, which is what we understand the meeting to be, then we cannot anticipate the outcome, but we welcome the opportunity.'

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: 'I very much welcome the change. It is a good start. We will say to her that she should continue to listen to the arguments about slimming down the national curriculum.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map