Exclusive: Heads to tell Damian Hinds they need more money and more teachers

8th March 2018 at 13:10
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton says annual conference will not be a 'political Punch and Judy show'

Funding is the “number one” issue that heads will be calling on the new education secretary to address at this week’s Association of School and College Leaders conference, the union’s general secretary has said.

Geoff Barton told Tes that teacher recruitment and the need for a period “stability” to allow the government’s education reforms to bed in will be the two other issues they will put to Damian Hinds.

However, he said the conference would not be a “political Punch and Judy show” aimed at haranguing the government.

ASCL’s 2018 conference kicks off in Birmingham tomorrow, with Mr Hinds due to speak on Saturday morning.

Mr Barton told Tes that delegates would be looking for “commitment to solving some of the problems” facing school leaders.

“We know what those problems are,” he said. “Funding is the number one. It will be interesting to hear his take on that.

'Give headteachers some space'

“Teacher recruitment is number two. And I think what members then will particularly want to hear is whether their craving for stability in the system – so we can just try and bed in all of the plethora of reforms that are still working their way through – that we can just have the mental space to do that.”

Having only taken over as education secretary in January, relatively little is known about Mr Hinds’ personal priorities for the school system. Mr Barton said he hoped more light would be shed on these by the end of the conference.

“It will be interesting to hear… whether he’s got some ideas he’s bringing to the role, or whether he’s going to continue with the existing ones on social mobility and developing QTS and teacher CPD, which we would hope that he would do, because we think those are good, and the signs are that he would.”

Mr Barton said the conference would be consensual, moving beyond “this rather inward-looking political cycle, whereby government announces something, unions oppose it”.

“What it’s not going to be is a kind of political Punch and Judy show of ‘let’s have a go at the government’."

At last year’s conference, the then education secretary Justine Greening was jeered by heads over the government’s policy at the time to expand grammar schools.

Mr Barton said such an occurrence was unlikely to happen at this year’s conference.

“I think what we will be doing is absolutely reaffirming ACSL’s principles that it is possible to have a high-quality, tendentious debate about something but to do that with courtesy," he said.

“That is what I expect you’ll get all the way through, because otherwise it becomes a distraction and it actually undermines the faith that parents have got in school and college leaders who are really highly esteemed.”

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