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Ministers 'play Russian roulette'

Ministers have been accused by head teachers of playing "Russian roulette" with children's lives.

Steve Iredale, president of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) suggested that "political meddling" has no place in children's learning.

He raised concerns that successive governments have come to power with a "burning desire" to deal with a crisis in the education system which does not really exist.

And he suggested that politicians and civil servants build a vision for the future of schooling based on their own school experiences and "the myths of a golden past".

In his speech to the NAHT's annual conference in Harrogate, Mr Iredale, head of Athersley South primary school in Barnsley, said: "Is it not time for governments, of whichever persuasion, to see the bigger picture and work towards the greater good for all children and the future economic success of our country rather than playing Russian roulette with their lives?

"You really do have to ask, does political meddling really have a place in our children's learning?"

Mr Iredale also told delegates: "In writing this speech I have been reflecting on why every change of administration has the burning desire to solve the 'crisis in our schools' often when one doesn't exist. It's almost as though they want to create one. Perish the thought. One minute we are the best school leaders ever and then we are not. It almost depends on which report they have read, who read it and on which day, as to how the profession is perceived. What they don't like they choose to ignore, even if it is success.

"It seems to me that one of the problems with ministers and department officials is that they believe they are experts on schools and therefore education because they went to one once. Their vision for the future of all children is very often based on their own experience, the myths of a golden past, a very different time. Schools and children's learning must be built on the here and now and the future, not on the nostalgia of the 50s, 60s or 70s."

Mr Iredale said he was challenging the Education Secretary and his ministers and advisers to work with headteachers in an "open and honest way" to develop school policies for for the 21st century.

He added that he had recently been asked by an interviewer which policies the NAHT would like to pursue, and had suggested banning smoking. "I qualified it by saying that like all my colleagues I am fed up to the back teeth of policies which are clearly created on the back of a fag packet and are consequently damaging our health, that of our children and the future prosperity of our nations. No smoking - no fag packets - no flawed policies. Simple"