Michael Gove goes to war over teacher strikes

By Adam Bienkov

Education secretary Michael Gove today accused teaching unions of conspiring against the interests of children, after two of them announced a series of strikes across the country.

In a blistering speech at the Policy Exchange think tank in central London this morning, Gove accused union leaders of demoralising teachers and urged them to "see the error of their ways".

Gove's comments came as the NUT and NASUWT announced two regional one day strikes over pay and pensions next month, as well as a national strike before the end of the year.

The general secretary of the NASUWT Chris Keates accused the education secretary of taking a "reckless" approach towards teachers.

"The responsibility for this lies entirely with the secretary of state. He has failed even to acknowledge the concerns of the teaching profession," Keates said.

She added: "He is using megaphone diplomacy rather than sitting down and trying to engage with this seriously. We believe this is a reckless and irresponsible way for a secretary of state to behave."

Responding to Keate's comments, Gove told Politics.co.uk: "I've met Chris on a number of occasions and I enjoy our conversations. They're robust and I almost wish we could invite other teachers in so that they could see how passionately Chris makes her case and how I respond."

"I think it would change perceptions of what relationships are like between teaching unions and the secretary of state."

Gove urged the unions to think again. "The problem with industrial action is that parents suffer as their routines are disrupted they have to pay for extra childcare, the poorest lose out most and children suffer because they lose valuable time with teachers," he said.

He also urged the Labour party to condemn the upcoming strike, saying: "We need an uncompromising condemnation of the damage this is doing to children from the Labour party that has so far either been acquiescent or silent."

Labour retaliated by accusing the education secretary of trying to undermine teachers.

"Michael Gove is undermining teacher professionalism by allowing unqualified teachers to teach in schools on a permanent basis. This is bad for school standards," Stephen Twigg, shadow education secretary said.

Teachers are set to go on two one-day strikes on October 1st, in the east of England, East and West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside and on October 17th in the north-east, south-west, London and the south-east.

They then intend to take a further one-day strike across all of England before Christmas.

Teachers are unhappy about government cuts to their pensions and plans to introduce performance-related pay.

Gove insisted this morning that teachers will "continue to have better pensions than the majority of people in the public and private sector".