'Not in the best interests of children': Headteachers vote no confidence in Michael Gove's reforms

Unions say vote 'sends strongest possible message' to Education Secretary and Government that policies are failing children

Headteachers today passed a vote of no confidence in the Government's education policies.

Many of Education Secretary Michael Gove's reforms are "not in the best interests of children", according to delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference in Birmingham.

The union raised particular concerns about the new national curriculum, major test and exam reform and schools being forced into becoming academies.

Tim Gallagher, proposing the motion, said: "Enough is enough. This motion's intention is to send the strongest message possible to this government that many of their education policies are failing our children, their parents and the very fabric of our school communities."

The NAHT is the first headteachers' union to pass a vote of no confidence in the Government's education reforms.

The UK's three biggest teachers' unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT passed similar votes at their Easter conferences.

The NUT and the NASUWT are already planning regional strikes in the North West next month in a continuing row over pay, pensions and workload with the prospect of a national walkout looming in the autumn.

The latest vote of no confidence is a further sign of the worsening relations between the Government and the teaching profession.

Mr Gove is expected to defend his education reforms when he takes part in a question and answer session with headteachers at the conference later this afternoon.

Mr Gallagher, a consultant headteacher from Worcestershire said that many of the government's education policies were "ill thought through, not based on empirical evidence and devoid of meaningful consultation and lacking in understanding."

He also suggested that ministers are attempting to push reforms through in a way that is "disruptive, damaging and pernicious."

"With this government it is ideology gone mad," Mr Gallagher told the conference.

Vince Burke, senior vice principal of All Saints Church of England Academy in Plymouth suggested that the government is trying to reform too much of the education system at once.

"If the Secretary of State had a business plan he would know that to be successful you don't change everything at the same time."

Ministers are currently attempting to overhaul the curriculum, assessment, accountability and funding, he said.

The resolution called on the NAHT's executive to ensure that the Government is left in no doubt that that the union represents the "serious concerns" of the profession.

It was passed with 99.3 per cent of the vote.

Delegates also passed a second resolution raising concerns that "too much power is currently given to one person to determine national policy on the basis of personal preference and ideologically-driven assumption."

Steve Kirkpatrick a deputy headteacher and member of the NAHT's executive said that he had two children and was concerned about their education.

"This is so important," he said. "This is so important because I want to stop people playing political ping pong with my children's education."

The NAHT represents around 85 per cent of primary headteachers and 40% secondary leaders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Before the conference broke for lunch, NAHT president Bernadette Hunter appealed to delegates to "remain professional" when Mr Gove takes to the stage later this afternoon.

She suggested that they could show their displeasure by staying silent, which would have a stronger effect.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We need to raise standards so we have an education system that is on a par with the world's best.

"Our academies programme is turning around hundreds of underperforming schools, we are introducing a world class curriculum and our reforms to exams will create qualifications that will keep pace with the demands of universities and employers. Surely this is something the NAHT should be supporting.

"We will not stand by when schools are failing our children. Sponsored academies are turning around hundreds of underperforming schools and ensuring pupils are given every chance to fulfil their potential.

"We are also overhauling special educational needs provision to put young people and their families at its centre, with more say in where they study and more control over the support they receive."