3 July 2002
Labour's policy on compulsory education is deafeningly silent on the most pressing issues in education: secondary teacher recruitment and retention and the new national qualifications system, PPTA president Jen McCutcheon said today.
"The policy statement says Labour has started to turn the tide on children being lost to the system, yet there is no mention of how it specifically intends to address the rapidly rising tide of secondary teachers being lost to the system. Nor is there mention of plans to address the substantial problems with the implementation of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. Parents, students and teachers will be devastated."
She said elements of the policy, including the establishment of a secondary education advisory group, an accelerated student loan repayment system, international exchanges, and a commitment to improved staffing, were laudable. "But unfortunately it's a little like putting fancy icing on a cake which lacks the basic ingredients, or painting a house which is falling apart at the seams.
"A high quality, motivated, strong secondary teaching force is absolutely fundamental to our state education system. This government's apparent intransigence on the only outstanding issue in the protracted dispute over secondary teacher pay and conditions is taking a disastrous toll on the country's secondary teaching force. A good number of them are thinking seriously about whether it is worth returning to the classroom next term.
"Unprecedented levels of industrial action, the secondary students' national qualifications system in disarray, and teacher morale at an all-time low, are tragic blots on Labour's copy book as it goes into this election."
Mrs McCutcheon said all members of the secondary education community would have to seriously weigh up Labour's promises in the light of current events.