Education Secretary attempts to lay blame for school problems on unions' industrial action
Teaching unions hit back against a scathing attack launched on them by schools privateer Michael Gove today after he blamed them for holding children back by calling for industrial action.
NUT and NASUWT have mounted a campaign of industrial action over pay, pensions and workload.
But to cries of "shame" from the conference floor the Education Secretary said: "At the moment the general secretaries of some teaching unions are making it very difficult.
"The general secretaries are ordering - ordering! - their members not to cover classes where another teacher might be ill or away at a relative's funeral.
"I have a simple message to those union general secretaries: Don't let your ideologies hold back our children."
NUT leader Christine Blower said: "Mr Gove says that schools are best run by teachers and yet he is giving academies and free schools the freedom to employ those without qualified teacher status. Every child should have the right to be taught by a qualified teacher in every lesson, every day.
"The amounts of public money being spent on the promotion of free schools are frankly a scandal.
"What is more, the majority of these institutions are in the secondary phase, creating serious surplus capacity when there is a crying need for more primary school places.
"Teachers will find the words of praise and talk of freedoms in the classroom very hollow indeed. The teaching profession has never come under such sustained criticism and attack."
Ms Blower added that it is for these reasons the NUT is taking action designed to protect teachers and defend education, and telling members to focus on the core role of teaching.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said Mr Gove's comments represented an attack on teachers taking lawful industrial action in defence of their rights and entitlements.
She warned his comments are inciting schools to break the law and flout teachers' terms and conditions.
And ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said Mr Gove was ignorant of the views of the majority working in education that tasks such as photocopying and exam invigilation should not be the job of teachers and did not improve learning.
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