Letter: Labour crusade to raise standards in schools

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The Independent Online
Sir: Is it a coincidence that Labour's plans to "improve education" by bashing teachers are announced on the same day on which, by failing to vote against the Budget tax cuts, that party has abandoned the hope of improving education by more conventional means? Like the Conservatives, Labour will need many whipping boys to carry the blame for the consequences of its own failure to spend money.

Neither Labour nor the Conservatives seem to understand that governments cannot improve education for the same reason they cannot improve our cricket: they cannot do the job themselves. They can only spend money to provide the facilities to enable our teachers or our cricketers to do the job themselves. They cannot force teachers to teach according to any professional conscience but their own. To believe otherwise is like believing that coaching can turn Devon Malcolm into a world-class spinner.

If there is anything wrong with a profession's culture, the members of the profession will change it much faster if they do not have to spend all their time asserting against the state their right to have a professional judgement of their own.

More generally, do these proposals mark the point at which Labour has been made redundant? For those who do not believe in the present policies, the Liberal Democrats offer the only alternative. For those who do believe in present policies, are the Conservatives, with a commitment tempered by experience, preferable to a Labour Party that would follow them with all the unwary zeal of a convert?

Yours sincerely,


House of Lords

London, SW1

6 December

The writer is Liberal Democrat social security spokesman in the House of Lords.