Stories + Views
Gove misleads Tory Conference with ill-informed attack on teacher unions
Union bosses “are saying that teachers shouldn’t do photocopying, they are saying that teachers shouldn’t put up displays, they are saying that teachers shouldn’t invigilate exams,” declared Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, when he addressed the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham.
But it isn’t union chiefs who are telling teachers they should not do these jobs. Tasks which are not part of teachers’ professional duties, including bulk photocopying and exam invigilation, are listed in “Raising standards and tackling workload: a national agreement” (2003), a document jointly signed by the then Department for Education and Skills, the Welsh Assembly Government and the unions. This agreement followed the PriceWaterhouseCoopers workload study (2001) which found that many jobs done by teachers could be done by non-teachers.
In January 2010, shortly before Gove became Secretary of State, Ofsted investigated the impact of the workforce reforms and concluded:
“…in the most effective schools visited, workforce reform had made a considerable difference to pupils’ learning because leaders had ensured that all their staff had clear professional status, were well trained, were deployed effectively and were held accountable for contributing to pupils’ learning and well-being.”
Mr Gove must be aware of this, of course. However, it suits him and his supporters to perpetuate the myth that union general secretaries tell teachers not to “devote themselves to children”. But it appears that Mr Gove thinks that strategies to ensure effective deployment of teachers’ time are “restrictive practices, which work against children’s welfare.”
Teaching is “the highest calling any of us can be called for”, Mr Gove told delegates. But those that heed the call should not be expected to reject acceptable conditions of service or to spend time on mundane clerical tasks which could easily be done by non-teachers. A teacher feeding paper into a photocopier is not being efficiently employed even if the Secretary of State for Education thinks that s/he is.