Thoughts on the NAHT 2012 Conference

changing cultures were represented at the recent NAHT conference in Harrogate, with guest speakers Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP on Saturday morning and the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Stephen Twigg MP, speaking in the afternoon.

It was a day of two halves.

The morning was conducted with strained courtesy, and although Mr. Gove said some very kind things about our nation’s educational leaders – as the General Secretary pointed out – we need those things said outside conference, and to the general public. The point was made that the profession of Head Teacher is run on hope and optimism, and that the tank has run dry and morale is at an all time low.

The afternoon had a warmer atmosphere as Stephen Twigg MP outlined his principles of educational policy and highlighted the encroaching crisis around lack of available primary school places.

However it was not what the two ministers said, so much as the way they said it that was striking.

Mr. Gove barely used notes, his pronunciation was impeccable, his grammar a delight and everything he had to say, delivered with the inherent confidence of the privileged and a supreme sense of entitlement.

Mr. Twigg was much more affable and human in his delivery, speaking in a more colloquial fashion, and regularly referring to notes. Whilst pointing out the successes of the previous Labour government he was clearly aware of shortcomings both in the past and present.

It seemed to us ironic, that whilst the rhetoric trumpeted equal opportunity, progress and attainment for all, the benefits of a private education within our current political and social system at least, was plain for all to see.

Neither man, however, really struck a note with conference attendees, and it was left to General Secretary, Russell Hobby, to contribute any sense of a positive way forward, outlining a four point plan as to to how NAHT might move effectively into the future:-

• A focus on regional branch development

• A more positive drive to attract the next generation of leaders into the NAHT

• Working more closely with parents and families

• Working with existing leadership teams to improve schools who do not want to become academies.

The major issues debated over the weekend included; ‘no notice’ OFSTED inspections, phonics and technical English tests, banding of schools in Wales, state schools having same freedom to design curricula as academies, improved recruitment opportunities, the shortage of up and coming head teachers and ever increasing workload – amongst other issues of course.

A recurring theme, in speeches, debates, policy points and conference workshops was the link between high quality c.p.d. and good teaching practice. As c.p.d. is at the heart of the work of changing cultures, we are of course delighted to have it’s strong association with high quality teaching and learning being so widely and consistently acknowledged.

Throughout the conference weekend, however, the underlying and overwhelming message from educational leadership to government was to back off, have faith in the professionals, praise openly and publicly when they get it right, offer constructive criticism and support when they don’t, and above all, allow them to get on and do the job they’re good at.

The final note was one of mutual support amongst all school leaders and supporting educationalists, with NAHT, backed by government funding for a pilot scheme, to work to address standards helping schools to achieve ‘good’ within three years outside academy intervention.

changing cultures have transcripts of all major speeches, excepting Mr. Gove’s, do please feel free to email us and ask for a copy, and we’ll supply one a.s.a.p..


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