There are signs the Government has learned from its mistake of using teachers as punchbags to project a tough and uncompromising image, Doug McAvoy told delegates.
"Instead of enthusiasm too many of the Government's early actions triggered cynicism among teachers; hardly a secure foundation for its standards agenda ...But I am glad to say things are changing.
"We are now hearing a little less of crusades and zero tolerance. We have, dare I say it, the beginnings of a recognition that without teachers' enthusiasm and support, the Government's ambitions for education cannot be achieved," he said.
He added that on balance the new Government has been good for education and that members must realise that Tony Blair's administration is the most popular since the Second World War: "This is not a Government to be swayed or deflected by the stamping of feet in Blackpool. To make a difference you have to put a case. Your case has to be founded on research. It has to be a sound case not a soundbite case."
He said the crisis of recruitment must be faced: "Whatever the critical attacks, whatever the disdain and disrespect from some elements in society, few careers offer the opportunity to enrich, expand horizons and make a difference to the futures of children."
Teachers should encourage others to join the profession and recall the sense of achievement. "Our message is that teaching is a great career - come and join us," he said.