Morgan left in no doubt of head teachers' disillusionment

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan Image copyright PA
Image caption The education secretary received a cold and uncomfortable welcome at the conference

With an audience of head teachers it was never likely to be a highly rowdy affair.

But with their complete silence as Nicky Morgan walked on stage, low cries of rubbish and then loud outraged laughter as she answered questions, head teachers here at the NAHT conference in Birmingham made clear quite how disillusioned they're feeling.

It's not just the plans to force all schools to become academies, which will affect primary schools most, as few have chosen to go down that route.

It's also the changes, delays and uncertainty around primary testing which have left the Department for Education looking ham-fisted.

The decision to postpone baseline testing for children starting school for a year, was closely followed by the accidental publishing of test papers for seven-year-olds online.

This all falls within the remit of Schools Minister Nick Gibb - so one head asked if he was running the department. A question Nicky Morgan dismissed as "sexist".

It's never great to have to start a speech with an apology, which the education secretary did today on the leaked test paper.

She offered significant reassurance that many schools won't suddenly find themselves marked down this year as a result of Sats tests.

Greater freedom?

But the speech, to a union which has tried harder than most to engage with the government, left them cold.

And these are the head teachers who are meant to be taking the initiative in deciding what kind of academy trust they want to form.

It would offer them greater freedom to make their own decisions, Nicky Morgan told them.

The loudest applause was for the head teacher who told her being forced to change wasn't the kind of freedom they needed.

It was at best an uncomfortable encounter, and ministers can and have been describing union opposition as coming from "vested interests".

Less easy to ignore are the many Conservative councillors and some MPs who are already very queasy about the forced academy plans.

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