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National Education Conference

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The NUT holds an annual Education conference, often inviting leading theoreticians in education to address seminars.

Day One of the National Education Conference in Nottingham included some very good sessions.

One was "on making groupwork work" in the session taken by Dr Robert Slavin who had a number of practical examples of how to implement co-operative learning in the classroom. Another was Rajeeb Dey the founder of the English Secondary Students Association. At the moment the ESSA seems to be too tightly entwined with the bureaucracy of various state agencies and the Secondary Heads Association. They even quote OFSTED favourably! However, what it does show is the potential for a mass school students movement in the UK - a mass movement which will go far beyond the modest ambitions of the present leadership.

Inevitably the proceedings were dominated by the Make Poverty History campaign which the NUT supports. This is confined to putting pressure on the G8 at present and there is a confused perception that the debt relief on offer to third world countries is a good start. In reality it is "debt relief" tied to privatisation which will cost the recipients of this gift dear.

One very interesting session was a blistering attack on New Labour's sell-out of comprehensive education by Fiona Millar the articulate Guardian journalist and (amazingly) former New Labour apparatchic. This rapidly developed into a debate on what on earth can be done about New Labour. Fiona placed her faith in influencing the new leader, Gordon Brown. Many delegates, including former Labour members, thought this absurd and there is the beginning of a realisation that a new party is needed. The issue of a separate political fund and a political voice for trade unions received a hearing at the last NUT conference and it looks as though it will not go away.

Brown may foster a few short-term illusions. In that sense alone it is a good thing if he becomes leader soon. The sooner for people to see their hopes for radical change are ill-founded.

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