Speech by NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates to annual conference
(Check against delivery)
You will have realised by now Conference that this is not the Secretary of State.
Well I hope you have!
The Secretary of State sends his apologies but he has insisted that all Ministers take a break over Easter.
They have all been working really hard.
Demolishing state schools really takes it out of you.
But I am glad the Secretary of State recognises that work/life balance is important.
What a pity he doesn’t apply this to hardworking teachers.
He believes that you should work as long as it takes to do the job but you will be pleased to know - not a minute more!
I know that when we have a guest Minister to Conference you always like me to try to find something positive to say before giving them advice about their shortcomings.
Well, I thought, and I thought, but could only come up with one thing he had done which was positive but it is something for which I want to thank the Secretary of State very much.
Since he has been Secretary of State, recruitment to the NASUWT has soared.
So much so, that we are now have a new recruitment campaign
Meet the new NASUWT poster boy.
All the messages Michael gives out make it clear that it is a must for any teacher to be in the NASUWT.
Given the rise in our membership, it’s clear that Red Mike, the stalwart of NUJ the picket lines, has not lost his touch.
Once a trade union organiser, always a trade union organiser.
Thank you, Michael.
But Conference we may be light hearted and take some amusement from the cardboard cut-out but there is nothing remotely funny about the real thing.
The Secretary of State stands accused of actions more serious than recruiting for the NASUWT.
He stands accused of launching an unparalleled vicious assault on our on teachers, schools and state education.
I won’t be blaming parents, middle or working class, or blaming head teachers or the Labour Party or the media.
As Voltaire is reputed to have said on his death bed, when asked by the priest if he would renounce the devil and all his works, ‘now is not the time to be making enemies.’
I am putting the blame fairly and squarely where it belongs on this Secretary of State and this Coalition Government.
This Secretary of State, sometimes acting alone, or sometimes engaging in gang related activity with his ministerial colleagues has wrought havoc on our education and other public services.
He has deliberately failed to make clear to parents and the public the inextricable link between teachers’ pay and working conditions and the provision of high quality education.
If teachers are to be recruited and retained they need pay levels which recognise and reward them as highly skilled professionals.
They need working conditions which enable them to work effectively to raise standards.
Savage cuts have been made to education budgets with thousands of jobs lost or at risk. Specialist services on which schools and some of the most vulnerable in our society rely have been reduced or disappeared completely.
A four year pay freeze has been imposed and is set to continue regardless of the state of the economy
Pensions have been plundered. Financially viable and sustainable pensions schemes have been torn up. The public has been fed a diet of myths and misinformation which exaggerate the level of the pensions received.
Let’s set the record straight once and for all.
The average teachers pension is £10,000 – hardly gold plated.
They do not retire on their final salary.
Teachers pay a substantial contribution throughout their working lives towards their pension.
Taxpayers pay nearly three times as much towards tax relief for the highest earners in our society than they do towards the modest pensions of a teacher or a nurse.
And by the way teachers are taxpayers, parents and members of the public.
A substantial part of the regulatory framework within which the workforce operates is being demolished.
Good practice guidance based on years of case law and experience is being butchered.
Statutory codes of practice on equality duties have been scrapped.
84% of Health and Safety legislation is to be abolished.
Employment rights are being reduced and for good measure access to justice for workers wronged by their employer will now rest on their ability to pay.
The reputation of the United Kingdom as a place where justice can be accessed regardless of status or income , is now already badly tarnished and in serious jeopardy.
Teachers’ professional status is being eroded on all levels.
Everyday teachers are told what to teach, how to teach and when to teach, often by those who have not taught for years.
They are monitored to destruction by an army of adults and even the children they teach.
Workplace bullying is rife. With two thirds of teachers in our survey staying that they have bullied in the last two years.
In every other aspect of life, verbal and emotional abuse are quite rightly outlawed and yet systematic abuse of teachers day in and day out is encouraged, condoned and applauded.
Evangelists for academisiation emerge from the DfE cold calling schools, threatening and bullying heads and governors and even removing them to clear a path for the privateers and marketeers who are the most predatory private chains, who require no vetting or accreditation, save that they must have a predilection for union busting, and they are now queuing up to asset strip local communities of land and buildings and deprive them of their local school.
Their ambition is to make a fast buck out of the tax payer but more disgracefully out of the education of our children and young people.
Children and young people are bearing the brunt of the arrogance and ignorance driving education and social policy.
To justify its policies children are demonised and branded as feral.
The view is regularly promulgated that if you are poor or working class then you must be inclined to criminality and anti social behaviour.
In just under two years 40,000 more children have been plunged into poverty under this Coalition and so desperate is the government to hide it that it is still using the poverty figures under Labour for grant allocation while it tries to redefine poverty.
Pupils are stripped of their dignity and rights by disciplinary sanctions designed more for populist appeal than to support teachers in tackling pupil indiscipline.
Children no longer have an entitlement to be taught by a qualified teacher.
The notion of a national broad and balanced curriculum has disappeared.
The fundamental principle of public service free at the point of use has been contaminated by the provisions of the Education Act which enables parents to be charged for subjects not in the core curriculum.
Youth unemployment is at record levels.
Child employment laws are being reviewed with a view to extending the hours children can work before and after school.
No wonder Ministers are obsessed with children reading Dickens – they want them to be familiar with what they are about to relive.
The Secretary of State is recreating the world of the 1950s grammar schools, a time when elite universities had the control of school examinations which were essentially entrance examinations for Oxbridge.
This is not an education system fit for the 21 Century these are regressive, elitist education policies designed to set up a quasi independent school sector funded by the state.
This is a secretary of state who has forced through legislation to give himself massively centralised power to avoid going back to parliament on key decisions.
He and his ministerial colleagues are driven by ideology, prepared to think the unthinkable and do it, to recreate what they believe was a golden age when working people knew their place, when death and injury at work were simply an occupational hazard and when education was for the few rather than all.
The economic and social policies of this government are disempowering, alienating and disenfranchising young people and whole communities.
The result will be a divided society, riven by inequality.
In what I have described to you about the actions of the Secretary of State you have heard:
evidence of actions which undermine parliamentary democracy;
evidence of actions which conflict with Human rights and equality legislation;
evidence of intentions to further a political agenda;
evidence of intentions to further an ideological agenda; and
evidence of actions which further an ideological agenda likely to result in children leaving school significantly ill-equipped to participate in further education.
What you may be interested to know is that, according to the Government’s Prevent strategy these are all indicators of extremism.
And we all know what the Government does with extremists.
So Michael Gove such think carefully before he points the finger at others and accuses them of being loony left, trots, and enemies of promise.
This Union and its members have the same the interests of children and young people and the public at heart. Michael you seem relentless in your intent to destroy a world class education service. I can assure you the NASUWT will be equally relentless in its fight to protect it.