Education secretary Nicky Morgan said she will do “everything I can” to reduce the workload of teachers, as she gave a speech in which she described the profession as “heroes”.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Ms Morgan said she would be going out to schools across the country to try and understand how she might be able to alleviate the workload burden on teachers.
Her speech was a clear attempt to continue the charm offensive toward teachers – signalling a move away from her predecessor Michael Gove’s more combative approach. She described the current crop of teachers as “world class”.
Having thanked Mr Gove and her ministerial team, Ms Morgan used her speech to thank teachers, teaching assistants and support staff “who rise early every day, go to work, and turn our plans into action”.
“If our school story has a hero, it is them,” she added.
The minister, who took charge of the Department for Education in July, said she “marvelled” at the dedication of teachers who are “working late into the night, marking books, planning lessons, preparing for inspections that may or may not come”.
But she said that there had to be a “better way” for teachers, adding that as a parent she did not want her own child to be taught by someone “too tired, too stressed and too anxious to do the job well”.
“So I have set two priorities. Firstly, to do everything I can to reduce the overall burden on teachers. And second, to ensure that teachers spend more time in the classroom teaching,” she added.
She admitted there were no clear policies she could introduce to try and lift the burden faced by the teaching profession, but she added that she would speak to teachers face-to-face to come up with the answers.
“I will be out meeting them, answering their questions and listening to what they have to say. Working with them to craft a new deal for teachers that treats them as the professionals they are,” Ms Morgan said.
In a speech that was light on policy announcements, the minister also said a further 35 free schools had been approved and signalled her intention to do more to try to “stamp out” homophobic bullying over the coming months.
Labour's education spokesman Tristram Hunt responded by claiming the Conservatives had "damaged school standards" through their reforms.
Meanwhile, Ms Morgan's commitment to ensure character education was taught in schools, such as instilling "grit and resilience" in students, was given a cool reception from heads' leaders.
"The space to develop these traits has been squeezed by an out-of-kilter accountability culture," said Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.
"It will not be achieved by bolt-on curriculum solutions or yet more inspection. It is at the very heart of what education is for. Accountability measures need to be slimmer and smarter in order to give schools the flexibility to develop these characteristics in children."
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