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 1800.

    As a qualified Primary Teacher who came into the profession 10 years, I have constantly been bewildered and astounded by the barriers which have prevented me from securing permanent work within the profession. This has often been down to post code lottery and lack of supply work,enabling me to access work. I am amazed by the attitude of those colleagues in permanent teaching posts,who complain!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1799.

    Quite pathetic from a group of so called professionals who still do not live in the real world. I work in financial services and have been made redundant twice in the last 3 years as the industry adjusts to new working practices and national/EU legislation.Many people do not get paid if they take time off for illness or injury,have no pension scheme ,or paid leave.You live in a cosseted world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1798.

    I've been 'judged' to be outstanding a number of times. I am now leaving management and returning to the classroom full time - pay cut or not - following a harrowing inspection where previous results from before I started at my curent school meant I was judged as unsatisfactory. I work 41 weeks a year, 72 hrs/wk, buy my own resources because school has no money, now considering a career change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1797.

    If you can't, teach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1796.

    Lets reduce the intrinsic value of education to such a low level that it has to privatised. Then all the elite people can make fortune out selling education back to us, just like gas water and electric we all need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1795.

    Footballers do it because they couldnt make that sort of money in a real job.
    Celebrities do it for the fame.
    Bankers do it for the money.
    Politicians do it because they're good at nothing else

    Believe it or not...
    Teacher do it because they want to better children.

    Dont forget that crucial and fundamental point

  • rate this

    Comment number 1794.

    The National Association of Headteachers has bravely spoken for teachers, pupils, parents & the country, against bullying &against its consequences for morale & I suspect in human casualties, hard to speak of. Whatever the cost, Gove will vilify contrary views as beneath contempt. The saddest thing though, he has a point. Our teachers are being taught real democracy, equal partnership, by its lack

  • rate this

    Comment number 1793.

    Is that slump down to inept teachers or a society that does not value education? Today's society rewards those who work hard but also those who gamble and look for shortcuts to success, whilst a loving media glorifies them. Nothing has been mentioned about why some children don't learn and to blame teachers for that alone is ridiculous. Fixing society is harder than kicking teachers.

  • Comment number 1792.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1791.

    Same old problem - new education minister, current system broken - blamed on teachers, new system to be introduced on top of day job, no money / resources for implementation !!! Ask the teachers at the coalface first, listen to them, gain their support and review honestly as things progress. Teachers are professionals, treat them as such, it's our kids futures at stake not the ministers career.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1790.

    1762 Mooker- you clearly have NO idea of the work teachers do. I have spent 3 hours marking books today and will be marking for much of tomorrow (as well as planning). With SATs next week, every eve will also be spent marking. During half term, I will be writing reports....you see teachers DO work in holidays. Not complaining, just saying!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1789.

    So is this why my childrens school high school has been without a head teacher for over a year, the reason being no one wants the job!. Surely after listening to todays reactions, you have an answer to low applicant levels? I am not happy but seems teachers need to assert themselves, I don't mean striking either. You cant have a vote of no confidence and then not provide a united way forward

  • Comment number 1788.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1787.

    1766 Anglerfish
    Obviously all employees would rather have resigned rather than be sacked on their respective CVs,so the stats apply to all industries ,not just teaching,so as the "weasel" wording is built in to all industries,I ask again,"why is teaching so low"?
    Ps I have had a comment removed as well,wish they would give upfront details of reason!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1786.

    1775. gerald
    ' ... please educate me if I'm wrong as I'm sure you would have made the comparisons before in your role!'

    No, sorry, I haven't. I don't know what proportion of teachers who leave the profession have been 'dismissed' nor do I know what % of employees in other walks of life are dismissed for not being good enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1785.

    @Spencerpericival, having had fair experience as both a teacher and working within corporate structures and the associated pmr's, targets and deadlines, I can assure you that you have no idea what you are talking about, I would go as far to say that it is you who would not last five minutes in a classroom.

    I'd implore Mr Gove to spend a term doing the job, or yourself for that matter...

  • Comment number 1784.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1783.

    The only thing functioning in Britain appears to be ┬┤referrals┬┤.

    -- The same problem being discussed with UK education --teachers should be referred or removed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1782.

    10 Minutes ago
    I didn't see the profession up in arms when the "everyones a winner" PC mentality was around. That was probably the single most destructive policy ever introduced


    Entending that principle to the teachers with undifferentiated rewards is similarly destructive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1781.

    Gove is an odious attention seeking berk with small man syndrome. He wants to be remembered, that's all. He cares not one jot about the nation's children or the people that educate them. His only concern is polishing his own ego and quivering with excitement every time he hears his own voice bouncing back from conference room walls. Moderators - if you vet this - email it on to Gove himself.


Page 1 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.