Michael Gove heckled at head teachers' conference in Birmingham


Michael Gove: "If Ofsted is a cause of fear then I'm grateful for your candour, but I'm afraid we are going have to part company"

Related Stories

The education secretary faced one of the angriest receptions of his three years in office when he appeared before head teachers in Birmingham.

Michael Gove was heckled and jeered at the National Association of Head Teachers conference.

The union passed a no confidence motion in his policies, while president Bernadette Hunter said teachers and pupils had "never had it so bad".

But Mr Gove said he was striving for higher standards in schools.

The education secretary appeared taken aback by the frosty reception as he appeared for the question and answer session on Saturday.

He was told by delegates that head teachers were suffering from stress caused by his policies, by Sats tests and by the prospect of facing tough Ofsted inspections.

In response to the latter, Mr Gove said: "If you think Ofsted is causing you fear I am grateful for your candour, but we are going to have to part company."

At which point, a delegate shouted: "Are you leaving then?"

'Dissolved into tears'

Mr Gove looked visibly ruffled during the session which was repeatedly punctuated by ironic laughter and groans at his responses.

Start Quote

They're bombarded by a flood of what they see as very poorly thought through initiatives”

End Quote Russell Hobby NAHT general secretary

One head teacher, Denise Wells, from Field House Infants school in Derbyshire, said colleagues felt they were living under a culture of "bullying and fear" as they waited for Ofsted inspectors to arrive.

Another, Lesley Wells, from Burton on Trent in Staffordshire, described how one of her school governors with 20 years experience had "dissolved into tears" after a week in which her school dealt with both Sats and an Ofsted visit.

She said as a head teacher she expected to face pressure but she did not think it was right that someone who had given 20 years of voluntary service should.

Mr Gove told delegates he had been "delighted with the warmth and enthusiasm" that had greeted some of the government's education policies.

He admitted that he may have not communicated his vision of the education system well enough, but said that while he had been "chastened by criticism" in the past, there would be no change of course.

"If people find it stressful that I'm demanding higher standards," the education secretary said to audible groans from the hall, "then I'm not going to stop demanding higher standards."

At the end of the session he said: "What I have heard is repeated statements that the profession faces stress, and insufficient evidence about what can be done about it...

"What I haven't heard over the last hour is a determination to be constructive, critical yes, but not constructive."

'Forced academisation'

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, told the BBC afterwards it had been "a fairly bruising session".

"It's not because it is a hard job - the job of a head teacher should be tough - but what I think he's failed to pick up on is the short termism of the targets and the constant change, [which] means that people no longer feel that they're doing the job that they came to do, which is to teach children.

Bernadette Hunter, NAHT president: "We do not have a failing system"

"Instead, they're bombarded by a flood of what they see as very poorly thought through initiatives and I think that is where the unhappiness comes from."

Earlier, the NAHT joined the three biggest teaching unions in England and Wales in formally opposing government education policy. It is the first head teachers' union to pass a no confidence motion.

It is critical because it is head teachers who will have to implement the government's school plans.

The stance represents a stepping up of their conflict with ministers and follows on from test boycotts and industrial action.

The union is particularly critical of what it describes as "forced academisation" in which struggling schools are encouraged to convert to become state-funded independent schools instead of remaining part of their local education authority.

The Department for Education argues this is the best way forward for an underperforming school.

But heads say that academy "brokers" employed by the Department for Education (DfE) are using unsavoury methods to push primary schools into opting out of their links with local authorities.

'Damaging schools'

A DfE spokeswoman said: "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."

The NAHT is the biggest union for head teachers, representing 85% of primary heads and 40% of secondary heads in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Stephen Twigg, Labour's shadow education secretary, said: "David Cameron and Michael Gove need to change course. They are damaging school standards by undermining teachers.

"It's no wonder given they are allowing unqualified teachers into our classrooms, teacher morale is at an all time low and 6,000 qualified teachers have left the profession on their watch."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    We want Stephen Twigg, I say we want Stephen Twigg!

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.


    Dear Sandy

    The globally respected Pearson report placed UK 6th in the world rankings this year. That's called 'a fact'. It's different from the cliched claptrap you read in the Daily Mail. It's different from the baseless opinions and propaganda offered by Gove and his asset stripping chums. It's verifiable.

    Try using some facts, then you can debate with the grown ups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again - How this man is still in a job is staggering beyond belief!

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    4 Minutes ago

    I must admit, I do feel sorry for teachers. Having to work 30 hours per week for only two-thirds of the year is a terribly stressful burden...


    Your ignorance of education and the teachers role in it is astonishing. If there was ever a comment that was an example of an uneducated person, that was it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    No mandate, no consensus-building, no common sense, no viable policies, no competence, no compassion, no even-handedness, and no confidence. No surprise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    696.silentmajoritynomore : it may be a vocation but that doesn't pay the bills! I still treasure the remark by Enoch Powell when he was health minister. He said nursing was a vocation so they should accept low pay and understand that one of the perks of the job was the chance to marry a rich patient. (He honestly did say this!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    Teachers do a difficult, important job and deserve a fair reward but much of what Gove is trying to do is entirely justified. Our children are going to have to be able to compete on the Global stage and the system needs a shake up if they are to succeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    Boo hiss, Boo hiss, you get longer holidays than us, boo hiss.

    Not sure if that is headteachers heckling politicians or politicians heckling headteachers though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    I can't understand why so many supposedly intelligent teachers are moaning about Ofsted and all the changes. If you don't like it, leave. I am going to do just that. I am getting a new job sorted right now and I will be gone. As will up to 50% of the teachers at the outstanding academy I work at. No doubt more across the country will. This is what happens in industry. You vote with your feet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    The prep boys including Cameron have lost touch. Only a few voted for UKIP as turnout was appallingly low. Now it's a rush to the Right as Tories fear loss of control. Only needs a few good policy initiatives like putting a cycle lane next to high speed rail link for example

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.

    681. Ingvar_Gunnarsson
    I must admit, I do feel sorry for teachers. Having to work 30 hours per week for only two-thirds of the year is a terribly stressful burden...

    You really do not have a clue. 30 hours? I am a history teacher, spending my weekend marking books. But I am not in an office, so that doesn't count, right? Then there is sports coaching and refereeing, but how about we ignore too?

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    I have no faith whatsoever in Gove's abilities to do anything constructive that will be conducive to raising education standards. What he is doing in that job is a mystery to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    I work for an American software company and it can be very stressful at times. I know what hard work is.
    Two of my children are school teachers in their 20's.
    They are underpaid, hard working and dedicated.
    No other profession has to put up with the cr*p that they do. Michael Gove went to Eton, as I did. I know that he is just out of touch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    Gove would never stand up to an Oftsed inspection himself as he is a useless and incompetent minister who should be dismissed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    I am a teacher. I am not a left wing fanatic, nor are most teachers. I like Michael Gove and think he is the first Minister for Education who has not used the post as a stepping stone.
    Labour did untold damage to the education system. I love teaching but it is a difficult job, most teachers work very long hours even when you take holidays into account.
    Anyone who thinks it is easy should try it

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    713 tories sunt rubigo illic
    ..er, that sounds like the rant of a Left-Wing Luddite, sorry Labour teacher?

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    The net result of our failed Ofsted inspection? Our talented and enthusiastic newly qualified teacher quit the job after being told she was "inadequate" based on half an hour of teaching. And our brilliant headteacher quit the profession altogether. Nice work Michael.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    The education system has been used to score political points for years by all governments, the way to improve the system is to get the politicians out of it. Let the educational professionals handle it, they are the best qualified.

  • rate this

    Comment number 722.


    7:30 start and 5:00 finish for me every day, as I stay for an hour or so after the kids have gone home to mark, tidy up, plan etc. Plus 2-3 hours x 3 a week (I like to have a life) and 4-5 hours on a Sunday. Thats roughly 60 hours a week, give or take.

    I'm not moaning - that's what it takes to do my job. I accepted it before I entered the profession. But you need to grow up mate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 721.

    683. spam spam spam spam
    They still cane children in Singapore and it doesn't seem to do them any harm. In fact they have one of the highest standards of child education in the world. Our grand parents were caned too and they turned out all right too

    The truth is many people are right wing and hold UKIP type views. Our country has abandoned lefty nonsense as they have seen the damage first hand.


Page 54 of 90


More Education & Family stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.