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Primary Education News
News Headteachers pass vote of no confidence in education policies
Union delegates declare that Michael Gove's policies are not in the best interests of children, parents or schools
Headteachers have passed a vote of no confidence in the government's education policies, declaring that Michael Gove's policies are not in the best interests of children.
Delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference in Birmingham raised concerns about the new national curriculum, major test and exam reforms and schools being forced into becoming academies.
Tim Gallagher, proposing the motion, said: "Enough is enough. This motion's intention is to send the strongest message possible to this government that many of their education policies are failing our children, their parents and the very fabric of our school communities."
The NAHT is the first headteachers' union to pass a vote of no confidence in the government's education reforms.
The UK's three biggest teachers' unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT passed similar votes at their Easter conferences. The NUT and the NASUWT are planning regional strikes in the north-west next month in a continuing row over pay, pensions and workload, with the prospect of a national strike later this year.
Bernadette Hunter, the NAHT president, told Gove, who attended the conference, that the morale of headteachers was low.
"You cannot fail to be aware that the morale of the profession is at an all-time low. Many are angry at what is happening to the education system. Those of us in education, leaders and learners, have never had it so bad. It is within your power to put this right," she said as she introduced him to the conference.
The education secretary told the conference that he was "always happy to debate, discuss, hear about and engage with the profession about what their concerns are".
Earlier, Hunter described Gove as being like "a fanatical personal trainer" in urging schools to jump higher and run faster.
She said Gove ignored the damage he was causing to the education system as he bullied headteachers into turning schools into academies.
Hunter, who represents most primary school headteachers, also attacked inspectors, saying they reduced rather than enhanced educational standards.
"The reality is that Ofsted is no longer fit for purpose, if it ever was," she said. "It costs an enormous amount of money, demoralises schools and staff and does nothing to improve the quality of education.
"It is leading to many good heads taking early retirement and many young teachers reluctant to work in more challenging schools, let alone taken leadership in those establishments.
"We're not afraid of proper and rigorous accountability but the current regime is damaging schools, not making them better."
Before her speech Hunter told the BBC that headteachers were also unhappy about the "constant churn of educational change" and negative rhetoric from the government.
"We know that UK schools are amongst the best in the world," she said. "They are highly regarded by other countries, but to hear the Department for Education you would think we have a failing system."
The NAHT conference also heard claims that brokers employed by the DfE had been pressuring schools, particularly those that face the biggest challenges, into becoming academies. More than half of secondary schools in England are now academies, but the vast majority of primary schools retain their links with local authorities. Many academy schools are part of chains, while others are run individually.
"What we cannot tolerate is the completely unacceptable bullying of heads and governors to turn their schools into academies, to meet a political target set by the secretary of state," Hunter said.
A DfE spokeswoman said: "We are clear that the best way forward for an underperforming school is to become an academy with the support of a strong sponsor. Academy sponsors have already turned around hundreds of struggling schools across the country, and academy results are improving far faster than the national average.
"Academy brokers help us to identify the best possible sponsor to turn around failing schools and ensure pupils are given every chance to fulfil their potential. We expect the highest levels of professional conduct from academy brokers and any allegations of misconduct are fully investigated."