Head teachers have told the Education Secretary Michael Gove that they are suffering from stress caused by his policies. They also gave him a vote of no confidence. However, Gove said heads were not being constructive.
At the same time, delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference in Birmingham blamed Sats tests and Ofsted inspections for their stress, both of which were introduced by the previous government.
Giving Gove a less than friendly reception, professional leaders of the nation’s schools spoke of fear and bullying when it came to Ofsted inspections but Gove was unapologetic, saying: “If you think Ofsted is causing you fear I am grateful for your candour, but we are going to have to part company.”
A person responsible for shaping future generations, including their behaviour towards others, then heckled Gove, yelling out to the amusement of others: “Are you leaving then?”
Speaking again – unconvincingly – of the “warmth and enthusiasm” that he reckoned some education professionals had greeted the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) policies, Gove said: “If people find it stressful that I’m demanding higher standards, then I’m not going to stop demanding higher standards.”
NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby told the BBC that Gove had failed to pick up on the “short-termism” of targets and the “constant change” [sic] and reckoned these prevented head teachers from doing their job – “which is to teach children”.
Heads, Hobby said, were “bombarded by a flood of what they see as very poorly thought through initiatives and I think that is where the unhappiness comes from”.
Later on, Gove said of his interface with head teachers: “What I have heard is repeated statements that the profession faces stress, and insufficient evidence about what can be done about it. What I haven’t heard over the last hour is a determination to be constructive – critical, yes, but not constructive.”