In which Nicky Morgan addresses the NASUWT conference and tells a joke, and All Change Please! wonders what she might have been actually thinking as she spoke…
“OK. Deep breath. Positive visualisation. Just remember that Margaret Thatcher was the Minister for Education before she became PM. Focus. Relax. And we’re back in the room…
“…thank you for inviting me here today. I know there are those who have expressed surprise – astonishment even – that I would ‘brave’ coming to this conference.
Well, I’m a bit surprised and astonished too, but then the people at Head Office made it clear that if I didn’t attend there’d be no chance of becoming PM. So here I am.
Well, let me be absolutely clear I will engage with any audience, with anyone who wants to participate in the conversation on how we make England’s education system the best system it possibly can be. That’s why I regularly hold Teacher Direct sessions across the country so that teachers can ask me questions and I can hear their views.
And pretend I’m doing something in response when all I’m really doing is coming up with a few spin-worthy platitudes that won’t make any real difference at all.
That’s my job as Education Secretary. It’s about listening to teachers, parents, anyone who has a role in our educations system and – based on those judgements – making decisions about what is best for young people.
And best for my wealthy Tory party colleagues I should add, but perhaps better not.
Our reforms: Academisation
Let me turn to the wider reforms in the white paper, because every single one of those reforms are about what we can do to create better environments for teaching and for teachers. And yes, I’m talking about every school becoming an academy.
Surely no-one actually believes this is a good idea do they? It’s obvious to anyone it will never work. It was just dreamt up the other day as an attempt to divert attention from Ossie Osborne’s Tax cuts. But on the plus side, at least it’s stopped people at the Teacher conferences complaining about our EBacc plans hasn’t it? But I’ve been told I have to keep promoting the stupid idea anyway, so let’s get on with it…
I know NASUWT has voiced concerns about the academies programme right from the outset but let’s be clear that this is about creating a system that is school-led; one that puts trust in you – the professionals inside the system, giving you the freedom from government to do your jobs as you see fit, based on the evidence of what you know works.
As if…! Look I know you don’t believe a word I’m saying so I might as well be honest with you. Despite what I’m saying this Academies for All policy is non-starter. It may be big news now but it’ll soon get forgotten about in the run up to this daft Euro-vote fiasco, and after that there will be a major cabinet reshuffle with different people in charge and if anyone asks they’ll just put on their best Sir Humphrey voice and explain that the white paper was “not included in the manifesto and was only really intended as a discussion document to explore the possibility and gather feedback and with hind-sight and due diligence it has become clear that the time is not yet right and that perhaps the finances would be better spent in other areas of greater need.” So with a bit of luck by the Autumn I’ll be out of here and running a department which actually has some purpose in terms of securing future votes on the doorsteps, which after all is what us cabinet ministers are really here for, isn’t it?
It isn’t for me, or officials in Whitehall, or Ofsted to decide how best to teach or run schools – it’s for you: the teachers who know better than anyone what works in the classroom and what your pupils need.
This really is all complete bollocks is it? Everyone knows that the Academy Trusts would simply dismiss anyone who doesn’t do exactly what they are told to do by an army of administrators and bonus-seekers who know nothing at all about education. Oh well, let’s press on…
Because as we make clear in the white paper, autonomy is not the same as abdication, for that school-led system to succeed we need to make sure you have access to the best training, the broadest support and a fair share of resources that will allow you to do your jobs to the best of your abilities.
Of course what the silly Tory spin doctors haven’t realised is that what this Academy nonsense is doing is uniting all teachers against us during their conference season. I mean beforehand they were too busy squabbling about whether traditional or progressive teaching methods were best to notice what we were doing.
Representatives of the profession
I visited the NASUWT website recently and found that of the last 20 press releases NASUWT has issued only 3 said anything positive.
Did I just hear someone laugh? Who was that?
Wouldn’t it be helpful if more of your press releases were actually positive about the teaching profession?
Yes I definitely heard laughter. I don’t remember telling a joke. Have I unintentionally said something funny? Or is my underwear showing or something?
Because If I were a young person making decisions about my future career, and I saw some of the language coming out of NASUWT as well as some of the other unions, would I want to become a teacher? If I read about a profession standing on the precipice of crisis would I consider a life in teaching?
Well come on, if it’s that amusing, share the joke with me then.
No I wouldn’t and it’s no surprise that TES research this week found that a third of teachers think that talk of a recruitment crisis was more likely to make them leave the profession.
Right, that’s quite enough laughter. You’re all staying behind after the conference until you can prove to me that you’re taking this seriously.
You are the best people to sell this as a profession.
And politicians are the best profession to mess it up.
So teaching unions have a choice – spend the next 4 years doing battle with us and doing down the profession they represent in the process, or stepping up, seizing the opportunities and promise offered by the white paper and helping us to shape the future of the education system.
Ah, yes, bold words and fighting talk at last. ‘This lady’s not for turning’ as someone once said. And now I’ve challenged you to a fight, of course you’re not going to back down and certainly will spend the next four years doing battle with us because that’s the way confrontational government works. But as I was saying earlier, it won’t be my problem anyway come the autumn.
So I stand before you today to ask you to step up, decide to be a part of the exciting changes happening in the education system and seize all the opportunities that come with it.
And ideally to seize the opportunities to leave the profession because then we won’t have to pay you redundancy money when we replace you all with a computer learning system in a few years’ time.
So do you think I got away with it then? Can I still get to be the PM one day?