EDUCATION Secretary Nicky Morgan wasted her opportunity to speak to trade unionists, instead opting to “flex her muscles,” NASUWT leader Chris Keates blasted yesterday.
The union’s general secretary told the Star that Ms Morgan had thrown away the chance to “build a bridge with the profession” in her address to the union’s annual conference on Saturday.
Ms Morgan, the first Conservative minister to speak at one of the union’s conferences since 1997, was jeered, heckled and laughed at as she vainly tried to defend the government’s latest Budget and her first education white paper.
“None of us can — or should want to — deny that the education system is in much better shape than it was five years ago,” Ms Morgan proclaimed at the opening of her speech, drawing big belly laughs from NASUWT members.
Academisation, she added, would “create better environments for teaching and for teachers.”
The Tory minister’s tone turned sour as she accused the union of “damaging the reputation of the profession” by highlighting the recruitment crisis and declining working conditions in teaching.
She said: “If I read about a profession standing on the precipice of a crisis, would I consider a life in teaching? No I would not.”
Ms Morgan’s words were met with shouts from members, including a man who quipped: “Has the penny dropped yet?”
She pressed on, saying teachers had to choose between battling the Conservative government until 2020 and “doing down the profession in the process” or accept the Conservative policy.
Among the “reforms” of Ms Morgan’s Educational Excellence Everywhere paper is the controversial plan to turn all state schools into academies and to create a government-subsidised college of teaching.
Speaking to the Star, Ms Keates said: “I think [Ms Morgan] had an opportunity to build a bridge with the profession, she had a platform here of people willing to listen to her.”
Instead the minister launched “an unnecessary and unprovoked attack which appeared designed to use the conference as an opportunity to flex her muscles with a teaching trade union.
“It was almost a classic example of an opportunity missed.”