UK Education Minister Nicky Morgan Heckled at Union Conference

(Image: Policy Exchange, Creative Commons)

(Image: Policy Exchange, Creative Commons)

While addressing the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers conference in Birmingham, UK Education Secretary Nicky Morgan was heckled by attendees for her statements about the current educational system and those who are a part of it.

In particular, Morgan criticized the union’s negativity and pessimism in press releases, and also stated the unpopular opinion that the education system has improved in the last five years, according to Richard Vernalls and John Shammas of the Mirror.

She said:

I visited the NASUWT website recently and found of the last 20 press releases that the NASUWT had issued only three that said something positive. Wouldn’t it be more helpful if your press releases were more positive?

According to Morgan, this constant negativity could prevent young people from choosing teaching as a profession and may contribute to the nationwide dearth in teaching talent. In response, the attendees laughed and mockingly applauded, reports Alfred Joyner of the International Business Times.

Morgan also said:

None of us can or should want to deny that the education system is in much better shape than it was five years ago… the evidence speaks for itself.

An attendee loudly told her to “get off” the stage, and a delegate shouted “rubbish” in response to her opinion.

Before Morgan’s speech, Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Budget that all local authority schools would become trust-run academies by 2022, with the government plans detailed in the Education Excellence Everywhere White Paper. The white paper also gives struggling schools with new head teachers a two-and-a-half-year break from Ofsted inspections to give them a chance to improve the school, as well as a new accreditation system for teacher training that awaits the approval of head teachers.

According to Morgan, this process of turning schools into academies will allow expert educators to more closely manage children’s education. She said:

It isn’t for me or officials in Whitehall or Ofsted to decide how best to teach or run schools, it’s for you, the teachers who know better than anyone what works in the classroom.

She also stated that the Department of Education is looking into reducing teacher workloads in the areas of data management, grading, and planning. According to Katherine Sellgren of BBC News, she also said that in response to the NASUWT’s research on social media abuse of teachers by parents and students that she would be doing more to protect teachers from online harassment.

After her speech, many of the attendees purposely neglected to applaud, reports Ashley Cowburn of the Independent.

However, NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates maintained decorum and thanked her for attending and said she would be welcome every successive year.

She is the first Conservative minister to speak at the conference since 1997.

Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell said that Morgan’s remarks show “how out of touch she is with what’s going on in education today.”