Six things teachers should know about the Conservative Party conference

7th October 2015 at 17:56
picture of conservative party conference

The first Conservative Party Conference to host a majority Tory government for 18 years drew to a close today.

It was the most intense party conference in years as protesters outside the venue kicked, spat at, egged and threw volleys of abuse at attendees, regardless of their reasons for being there.

But what did the four days of speeches, fringe meetings and police cordons mean for the country’s schools?


1. Heads will have yet more on their plate

Education secretary Nicky Morgan delivered a speech trying to talk tough on educational standards while also praising the teaching profession. Contained within it was the announcement that all parents will have the “right to request” wrap-around childcare from their school spanning the full working day and including holidays. The demand led Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, to state that heads already had “plenty on their plate” and that it shouldn’t distract from their chief priorities.


2. Nick Gibb believes teachers have never had it so good

Despite long working hours, a drop in pensions, less money to buy resources and more kids flooding into the system to teach, schools minister Nick Gibb believes now is the best time to be a teacher. Mr Gibb said the reforms his party had ushered in, namely free schools and academies, meant teachers were now free to go it alone and work in the way they see fit. He also thinks the “prestige” of the profession is on the rise.


3. David Cameron has his sights on religious supplementary schools

In his bid to tackle segregation and combat extremism, the prime minister turned his attention to Sunday schools, madrassas and Jewish yeshivas, which educate around a quarter of a million children in religious education. Where any such school teaches for eight hours a week, they will be expected to register and if they are suspected of preaching “hate” they will be closed down.


4. David Cameron really doesn’t like local councils...

Perhaps he had his library card revoked once, or maybe he brought the wrong type of utility bill for proof of address when applying for resident parking. Whatever the reason, the prime minister does not like local authorities, at least not when it comes to running schools. Thanks to his party’s reforms, heads were “throwing off the shackles of local council control”, he said. Under his watch, every school would become an academy, he said, before adding: “And yes, local authorities running schools is a thing of the past."


5. ...or children who bunk off school

The prime minister also announced proposals to dock parents’ child benefits if they fail to pay fines for their truanting children. The controversial move has been brought in as two-fifths of parents fail to pay their fines, and generally avoid court as local authorities do not take legal action. The decision was condemned by the NASUWT, which said it would merely add to poor people’s deprivation.


6. It’s hard to be an “out and proud” Tory teacher

While being openly gay no longer carries the stigma it once did, being an openly Conservative teacher does, apparently. One former Teach First teacher, Amy Gray, who stood for election in the very un-Tory seat of Hackney North and Stoke Newington, said she is put off returning to the classroom for fear of vilification. Ms Gray, who presumably encountered just a soupçon of enmity while knocking on doors in Hackney, said she would love to return to teaching but is afraid of being an “out an proud” Tory in the staffroom. And it was unions, she added, that were largely to blame for it. Perhaps she needs the number of Toby Young’s West London Free School.      


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