Moderate teachers' union backs vote of 'no confidence' in Education Secretary Michael Gove

Delegates also declared no confidence in chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw

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The Independent Online

Teachers today overwhelmingly backed a motion of no confidence in Education Secretary Michael Gove for failing to treat teachers with respect or improve education standards.

The motion at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference in Liverpool is the first time in the traditionally moderate union's history that it has declared no confidence in a government minister.

Delegates also declared they had no confidence in chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw - who they claimed had turned education standards watchdog Ofsted into a political tool of the government.

Chrissie Jolinon, a teacher from Brent in north-west London, told the conference that Mr Gove was "focussed" to the point of "obstinacy" in delivering his proposed school reforms.

Delegates spoke of their concerns over proposed changes to the national curriculum - which 100 academies in a signed letter to The Independent last week claimed would lead to a "dumbing down" of standards and a return to rote learning in the classroom.

Ms Jolinon said Prime Minister David Cameron had claimed the reforms would mean history would be taught as "the story of Britain's glory", adding: "No teacher with a shred of integrity will teach history with a political bias in the classroom."

Godwin Agbi, a supply teacher from Essex, said Mr Gove had claimed the academics were wrong and their intervention Marxist-inspired.  However, he added that getting academics to agree on anything was often difficult, adding: "Getting 100 of them to sign up to a letter against you takes a special kind of talent."

Jean Roberts, a primary school headteacher - also from Brent, added; "The pressures that these two are putting on staff working in our schools is horrendous.

"I have no confidence in Gove and Wilshaw. If any of us behaved towards our pupils in the way they have behaved towards us, we would be sacked."

The motion came after Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, won a standing ovation from most delegates, for a sustained attack on Mr Gove - claiming he had caused mounting damage to children's education.  She was also critical of Mr Gove's "gang of arm twisters" who, she said, were using threats and bribes to force schools to convert to academies.

Ofsted, delegates argued, had colluded in the academies drive by changing its grading system so that schools previously designed as "satisfactory"." were now described as "requires improvement" and "not good schools", thus becoming eligible for being forced into academy status.

However, Jesse Ratcliff, from Lincolnshire, argued: "If you agree we are a moderate union then we should work with the Secretary of State. If we pass this motion are we not in danger of just reinforcing his opinion of us as left-wing loonies or enemies of education.

"We will actually have a vote of confidence that we may use in the ballot box in 2015. Let's use that then and kick them all out."

Dr Bousted said of the vote: "Michael Gove and Sir Michael Wilshaw have like a blodd brothers' pact to suck the life out of the education system and the teachers who work in it.

"Teachers feel they are depressed and demoralised.  They don't see Gove and Wilshaw's criticisms in the work that they do."

Yesterday afternoon Schools Minister David Laws, addressing the conference, offered the ATL an olive branch by saying: "We should be open to listening to you as well as robustly putting our views across."

A spokesman for the Department for Education added: "For too long other countries have been outpacing us.  We need to make sure we have an education system that is robust and rigorous with exams and qualifications that match the world's best.

"This is surely something the ATL should be supporting."