Queen’s Speech

27 May 2015

Commenting on the Queen’s Speech, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“This is a Queen’s Speech which entrenches inequality. Visits to foodbanks will increase as benefit cuts bite, the sale of housing association stock will not address the housing crisis and more families will be uprooted due to the bedroom tax.

“The concern for so called, although as yet undefined ‘coasting schools’ will not be addressed by forced academisation. Along with the LGA, the NUT believes it should be for local authorities to assist schools.

“This would be preferable to sacking headteachers and silencing opposition to academisation‎ by doing away with the already minimal level of consultation. What's more, we know from research into the London Challenge that schools working together create sustainable improvement.

“The Government justifies this extended and accelerated privatisation of our school system by claiming that it cares about standards. Yet there is now a mountain of evidence which shows that there is no academy effect on standards in schools. Indeed, research by the Sutton Trust concluded that the very poor results of some chains – both for pupils generally and for the disadvantaged pupils they were particularly envisaged to support – comprised ‘a clear and urgent problem’.

“The free schools already in existence have wasted vast amounts of taxpayers’ money, often set up in areas of little or no need while other areas suffer a school place shortage. Provision for 500 more free schools will simply escalate this problem.

“Head teachers are already in short supply, so the promise to sack more of them will simply exacerbate the problem. Where does Nicky Morgan imagine that new teachers and heads will come from if up against threats like this?

“We have a generation of stressed pupils, with teachers working 60-hour weeks, too little of which is spent doing work which is of relevance to pupils. Accountability is the over-arching issue, and it is currently way out of hand. We are testing children within an inch of their lives and the vibrancy and love of learning that should be at the centre of the curriculum is all but lost.

“More testing, more free schools, more forced academies and more pressure – all with less money in education and less money in the other services that support children. This is not the strategy that will give all children in this country excellent outcomes.

“There are alternative school improvement strategies which are better value for money and which make possible better outcomes for children. These strategies would also stem the tide of teachers fleeing the profession. It is high time that the Government engages with the profession and with the evidence from the last 40 years about what improves educational outcomes.

“Trade unions are an important part of the fabric of this country. Working people fought long and hard for the right to be represented fairly and to challenge injustice in the workplace. To try and legislate to take that voice away is shameful and one which will be challenged.”

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