Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Wouldn't Touch Some Comprehensives with a Barge Pole, Says Morris

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Wouldn't Touch Some Comprehensives with a Barge Pole, Says Morris

Article excerpt

Byline: TIM MILES

EDUCATION Secretary Estelle Morris sparked a storm of controversy today when she condemned comprehensive schools, saying that if she were still a teacher, there were some she "wouldn't touch with a barge pole".

In a speech today on her vision for the future of secondary schools, Ms Morris, who taught at a Coventry comprehensive before becoming an MP, said: "I know that all secondary schools are not identical. As a teacher, I go into some schools and think I would like to work there. But there are others I wouldn't touch with a barge pole."

Her comments were condemned as "outrageous" by the biggest teaching union, the National Union of Teachers.

She defended the founding principle of the comprehensive system, which had aimed to give equal opportunity to all children. But she said it had failed to deliver and in too many schools, there was neither equality of opportunity nor equality of achievement.

There were many excellent comprehensives, she added. But too many were letting their pupils down, confusing excellence with elitism and placing too much emphasis on uniformity.

NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy attacked her words, saying: "This is an outrageous statement which ill becomes an education secretary. Teachers are devoting all their energies to educating their pupils. Many will be wondering whether they are in a school which Ms Morris wouldn't touch with a barge pole.

"If so, why should she expect them to stay there? It is proper for a politician who has made such a remark to identify the factors which mark out such schools and to justify her comments.

"Her statement is demoralising and ignores the efforts made by our teachers, many of whom work in extremely difficult circumstances."

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, called Ms Morris's remark " unfortunate". …

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