UK Education: Teaching unions fight back as Gove criticises industrial action
At the Conservative Conference, The Education Secretary claims that teachers are "holding back" children by taking selfish industrial action.
During his speech at the Tory conference in Birmingham, Education Secretary Michael Gove criticised members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and NASUWT.
The unions have recently voted to take action that just falls short of going on strike. The action concerns pay, pensions, and working conditions.
NASUWT and the NUT represent nine out of ten teachers in England and Wales. Members from both unions have voted to work only contracted hours; this involves action such as refusing to cover for absent staff members and not invigilating exams.
The Education Secretary has claimed that the unions have ordered their members not to cover classes when another teacher might be ill or away at a relative's funeral.
Gove condemned the general secretaries of the unions, saying ideologies must not be allowed to “hold back” children. He suggested that teachers who follow industrial action are not devoting themselves to their pupils.
NUT leader Christine Blower has defended herself against the allegations, branding Gove’s words as “hollow”.
"Mr Gove 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,” she said, adding, “The teaching profession has never come under such sustained criticism and attack."
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates also defended her union’s right to action, saying that Mr Gove's comments represented an attack on a teacher’s lawful right to preserve their entitlements.
Keates maintained that Gove’s comments even incite schools to break the law, by encouraging them to flout a teacher’s terms and conditions.