Gove under fire at NUT conference

Michael Gove was described as a "demented Dalek on speed" today as teachers debated calls for a major escalation of strike action.

Teachers are considering fresh strikes
Teachers are considering fresh strikes

Teachers need to put "maximum pressure" on the Government to force them to change their policies on issues such as pay and working conditions, activists at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) annual conference heard.

Delegates at the Brighton event were debating a priority motion which called on the union to co-ordinate national strike action in the week beginning Monday June 23, if "significant" progress is not made in resolving its long-running dispute.

The resolution does not rule out more than one day of strikes, and also leaves the door open for further industrial action in the autumn - a move which leaves hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren across England and Wales facing the prospect of school closures and disruption to lessons.

A final vote on the resolution was not taken, and it will be debated again later in the conference.

Proposing the motion, Jerry Glazier of the NUT's executive, said: "We must put maximum possible pressure on Gove and the coalition Government to radically change their damaging policies towards education, their damaging policies towards teachers and their damaging policies towards children."

Ian Murch, also a member of the union's executive, launched a stinging attack on the Education Secretary, saying: "We need a secretary of state who believes in treating teachers properly and respecting their professionalism."

He described the minister as "a parody of an Education Secretary".

"Michael Gove, the man with a mad idea for every occasion," Mr Murch said.

"Michael Gove, the demented Dalek on speed who wants to exterminate anything good in education that's come along since the 1950s.

"Michael Gove, the man who says he wants to set schools free and then sends in the Spanish inquisition."

He told the conference: "We are here to do the public a favour, to make sure Michael Gove's days are numbered. Michael Gove you have to go."

There was a heated debate over an amendment to the motion, which called for the NUT to step up its campaign and make firm plans for two-day walkouts on two separate occasions in the autumn term.

The amendment, which was lost following a full card vote of delegates, also set out four key demands - an end to performance-related pay, a pension age of 60 for teachers, a £2,000 pay rise for all teachers and a "significant" reduction in working hours.

The NUT's campaign of industrial action has previously been condemned by the Department for Education (DfE), which said it disrupts families and holds back children's education.

In her speech to the conference earlier, NUT president Max Hyde said the union did not take strike action lightly.

"We care very much about the children and young people we teach and the communities in which we work," she said.

"But we cannot stand by when teachers' pay is eroded, our pensions attacked and our workload is unsustainable.

"We are the union and we will act."

Exam timetables show at least a dozen GCSE and A-level papers are due to be sat by students on the first two days of the week proposed in the NUT's resolution, with one advanced maths extension paper scheduled for the Wednesday of that week.

However, NUT leaders insisted they were not seeking to impact on the exams.

A DfE spokeswoman said: "Ministers have met frequently with the NUT and other unions and will continue to do so. Further strike action will only disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession.

"We know that the vast majority of our teachers and school leaders are hard-working and dedicated professionals. That is why we are giving teachers more freedoms than ever and cutting unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy."

:: Delegates also passed a resolution heavily criticising Ofsted, which declared that the inspectorate is "not fit for purpose".

Proposer Bhasker Bhadresha, from Redbridge, east London, claimed Ofsted was stopping teachers from teaching.

He said: "I've spoken to so many teachers who say they don't go in to teach, the go in to do paperwork and if children learn something that's an added bonus."

This is partly because headteachers are "terrified of Ofsted", he added.