Commenting on the Secretary of State for Education’s session at Conservative Party Conference, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union said:
“Michael Gove does not have a monopoly of concern that all children and young people should have high aspiration and the very best teaching and support to achieve. In the NUT we believe this is best done in schools which are well supported by local authorities.
“The Secretary of State continues to be obsessed with school structures despite there being no evidence to show that academies in themselves improve educational achievement.
“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. Educational opportunity for all requires coherence in place planning in a democratic context, not a free for all.
“As we saw with this year’s GCSE marking fiasco, talk of there being no artificial cap on aspiration is contradictory. Ofqual has already indicated that it will stabilise the number of A*-C passes. The 40% floor target, in combination with this, means that some schools will only be able to improve their performance if others do less well.
“The Secretary of State 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.
“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. It is for this reason that the NUT is taking action against the Secretary of State and the Wales Minister for Education, telling members to concentrate on the core role of teaching. Our action taken alongside colleagues in the NASUWT is designed to protect teachers and defend education.
“The NUT's view is that the Secretary of State should visit all types of schools, not just academies and free schools. He would then see what excellent work goes on day in, day out in those schools which haven't chosen academy status.”