In 2001, a certain Theresa May MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, addressed the PAT [now Voice] Annual Conference in Cardiff.
Her speech reveals how little has changed in education since then: teachers working excessive hours, performance-related pay, SATs, admissions….
Interestingly, some of Mrs May’s criticisms of the Labour Government’s education policies have been made by politicians, unions and practitioners about the current Conservative Government and its Coalition predecessor:
“..the Government’s obsession with targets in education, for SATs…are having an adverse effect on the quality of education…the relentless pursuit of better numbers fails to take account of …everyday realities..”
“Heads and teachers need to be free to respond to the needs of parents and children and not be hidebound by the latest government initiative or the latest bureaucratic whim.”
“We desperately need to raise the morale of the teaching profession.
“We have a real crisis of teacher shortages…Disillusioned teachers are leaving the profession in droves…
“This is the crisis in teaching. We will never attract new teachers to stay in the profession until they know that once in the profession they will be able to get on with the job that they trained for.
“We will not attract new recruits to a profession with a workload that leaves little time for friends or family. And we will never succeed in keeping good teachers in a profession where they are treated more as administrators than as professionals.”
“..for years governments have been intervening in the education system on the basis that the answer to any problem lay in greater prescription from the centre – and increasingly improvements have been in inverse proportion to the degree of interference..”
“children and young people are different – they have different levels of ability and different needs. This Government sees education as utilitarian with children increasingly being forced into a single mould. The Government’s obsession with numerical targets means their focus is on meeting the numbers regardless of the impact on children and young people….
“the academic and vocational are being mixed in a way that fails to recognise the value of either..”
“diversity and choice …allowing new schools to be set up even if there are already enough places in the area…a school can be taken over by other suppliers…we can learn from other countries … Charter Schools in the USA…”
Many of the concerns and issue raised by members are also all too familiar, including teacher recruitment , the respective responsibilities of teachers and parents, excessive testing and constant change in education.
Geraldine Everett (pictured below with Theresa May), who was then the union’s incoming National Chairman and, coincidentally, is currently National Vice Chairman and will become Chairman again next year, told the conference:
“The profession cannot and should not be held entirely responsible for the moral failure of society at large – it cannot and should not be expected to repair all the damage from the breakdown of family relationships, or the crime and corruption in our midst.
“It seems that the remit for teachers has developed exponentially as we have witnessed increasing violence, the decline in family values, the adverse role model influence from some areas of sport, the media and those in public life.”
“Teachers were caught up in a stream educational initiatives” and yet were expected to deliver academic and moral excellence.”
Motions debated at the Conference included many issues that are still current and problematic today:
- “the Single Status agreement must not result in a worsening of pay or conditions of employment”;
- “support staff are entitled to be considered as part of the whole school team”;
- “current workload and conditions of service for teachers dissuade people from joining the profession”;
- “scrapping league tables”; and
- “a National Training Allowance…paid to all young people in full-time education and training”.