Heads may be in the depths of a funding and recruitment crisis but Damian Hinds managed to win a warm reception from them this afternoon with a teacher-friendly speech.
The education secretary set out his plan to ease accountability pressures and tackle recruitment, and won four separate rounds of applause from delegates at the NAHT heads' union conference in Liverpool.
The loudest came as he told heads: “I trust you to get on with the job.”
The reception came in marked contrast to the jeering he received earlier this year over funding when he addressed the Association of School and College Leaders.
Today Mr Hinds set out his plans to replace floor targets and the coasting schools policy with one measure that triggers when a school receives support.
He also won applause when he confirmed that regional schools commissioner visits to schools, which he acknowledged added to workload and “can feel like inspection”, would stop.
And Mr Hinds pledged to work with headteachers to understand the pressure facing schools on high-needs funding.
Tackling the 'fear of inspection'
“The spectre of our accountability system can loom large over schools,” he said.
“Fear of inspection. Fear of a single set of bad results. Fear of being forcibly turned into an academy - all of this can create stress and anxiety, and that can percolate through the staff. Ladies and Gentlemen, we can do better than this.”
In a question-and-answer session with heads after his speech, Mr Hinds was asked only one question on funding and he pledged to work with the NAHT to understand the pressures around high-needs funding ahead of this year’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
He also confirmed plans to ensure that only schools that fail Ofsted inspections will face forced academy conversion.
Mr Hinds said: “I want to move to a system where, when it comes to educational underperformance, we only enforce academy conversion, leadership change or changing the trust a school is part of when there has been an Ofsted 'inadequate' judgement.
“So that means we will not be forcibly turning schools into academies unless there is that judgement.”
Watch Mr Hinds speech here: