Minister heckled at teachers' conference over pension reform

Teachers heckled and jeered the Schools minister yesterday as he tried to justify a range of government policies to them.

Nick Gibb was harangued by delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' annual conference over government threats to teachers' pensions, cuts in education funding and university tuition fees.

The heckling at the Liverpool conference started with cries of "Rubbish" and "Not true" after he had claimed of government changes to the teachers' pension scheme: "We don't want to see a race to the bottom in terms of pension provision." One delegate accused Mr Gibb's boss, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, of "political cowardice" for deciding not to address any of the teachers' union conferences over Easter. When Mr Gibb replied: "Michael's on holiday", there were cries from around the hall of "So are we!"

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, described the mood as "the frostiest reception I have ever seen for a minister at an ATL conference."

Only 24 hours earlier the union – traditionally the most moderate of the three major teachers' unions – had voted for the first time in its history to ballot its members on strike action over pensions. Teachers are being asked to contribute £100 a month more towards the scheme. In addition, the retirement age is being raised to 68. It was the first time in more than a decade that a government minister had faced heckling at a teaching union's Easter conference – the last time being when delegates at a National Union of Teachers' conference staged a walk-out when the then Schools minister Estelle Morris was addressing them.

Mr Gibb tried to tell the conference: "I fully understand the strength of feeling here," but was shouted down with "No, you don't".

He added that he felt public service pension provision should remain "gold standard". Malcolm St John Smith, of the union's executive, retorted: "My gold-plated pension is £11,000 after 30 years' service."

Mr Gibb was heckled again after a delegate, Elizabeth Lampard, from Staffordshire, asked him: "Why is there money to support the opposition in Libya while teachers' pensions and education funding are under attack?"

He replied: "These decisions are very important in terms of defending our national interests", but there were shouts of "Rubbish!" and "Oil".

On university funding, he was asked whether he was disappointed that so many universities were opting to charge the maximum £9,000 a year. There were cries of "What about getting a mortgage?" as he said graduates would only have to pay loans back when they were earning £21,000 a year.

After his address Mr Gibb said he thought the teachers had been "very polite", adding: "They laughed at some of my jokes." He promised to report back on their concerns and appeared to offer an olive branch over a recommendation by the Lord Hutton review on pensions that independent school teachers should be excluded from the state scheme. Dr Bousted said afterwards: "If the ATL is so angry, where is the Government going to go? We're middle England."

Earlier in the day, delegates warned that spending cuts would mean school trips being axed and libraries closing.

In her address to the conference, Dr Bousted said they meant "savage cuts to minority support services, psychological services, pupil and parent services, behaviour support services ... and children and adolescent mental health services". In one authority alone, Hull, 599 staff were being made redundant as the number of truancy officers was cut from 15 to three, and music and sports services were made completely self-financing.

'Stop using gay to mean bad'

Teachers debated whether children should be corrected every time they use the word "gay" in a negative way.

Pupils use the word as a synonym for "bad" without thinking about the offence they could cause, a religious education teacher, David Kinnen, told a fringe meeting at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' conference. "The word 'gay' is tolerated where racist words would not be," he said. "If someone says something is 'gay' in my lesson, I will ask them what is happy or homosexual about the thing they are talking about. It makes them think about the use of the word."

Mr Kinnen claimed schools often turn a blind eye to homophobic bullying.

Ambushed ministers

* David Blunkett had to take refuge in a side office in 1995 – described by some as a "cupboard" because of how small it was – after the then shadow Education Secretary was chased the length of the Blackpool Winter Gardens by chanting NUT delegates upset over his plans to close failing schools and give them a "fresh start" with a new name and new staff.

* Estelle Morris was confronted with a walk-out by NUT delegates when she addressed their conference as Schools minister in 2000. Government policies aimed at naming and shaming failing schools had angered them.

* Also in 2000, the Prime Minister Tony Blair was famously slow hand-clapped and heckled by members of the Women's Institute who considered his address to them too long and overtly political.

* The then Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt had the distinction of being heckled and jeered twice in a week in 2006 as she sought to defend government health reforms – which could involve redundancies – to the Unison and Royal College of Nurses' conferences.

* Ruth Kelly was heckled at the Secondary Heads' Association conference – also in 2006 – after suggesting they should let parents have more say in the running of their schools. They thought her tone too patronising.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics rally to defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
John Cleese is promoting his new book
A-list actresses such as Deepika Padukone get paid a tenth of what their male counterparts make per film
The Black Friday Vines that will destroy your faith in humanity

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
Robbie Rogers: US former Leeds United footballer, 25, announced he was gay in February 2013, shortly after he left Elland Road. Rogers 'retired' after writing on his blog: 'I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay.' Has since signed with Los Angeles Galaxy.
peopleUS footballer said he had hoped Michael Sam and Jason Collins coming out might have helped
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt

The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Opilio Recruitment: Market Entry Analyst

£50k - 60k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A successful Google join...

Opilio Recruitment: International Development Manager

£60k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A successful Google joint vent...

Opilio Recruitment: Apprentice Advisor - IT

£30k - 34k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

h2 Recruit Ltd: New Business Sales Manager - Talent Management - £60,000 OTE

£35000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A true market leader in ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game