Angry teachers booed, jeered and heckled Estelle Morris, the school standards minister, yesterday as the biggest teachers' union threatened strikes against the Government's education reforms.
Some 300 left-wing delegates walked out as Ms Morris began to speak at the National Union of Teachers conference in Harrogate.
Many of those who remained shouted "Tory", "Shame" and "Give up your salary and your holidays" as she defended the Government's decision to introduce performance-related pay, which will give all teachers who reach new national standards a £2,000 pay rise.
After her speech, Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, was furious with the hecklers. He told them their behaviour would lose them public support when he was trying to explain their opposition to the pay reforms. The union wants all teachers to receive the pay increase, regardless of performance.
Ms Morris, who taught for 18 years and is an NUT member, enraged delegates when she argued that good teachers should be paid more. They shouted "Shame" and "Withdraw" and accused her of insulting teachers as she said: "All pupils and parents know that some teachers are better than others. I can't accept that there is only one job in the world where there is no difference in performance."
After the conference she said she had not been surprised by her reception. "Easter after Easter there is always a small minority of teachers who let the profession down. I must be the only minister in history who has come to a conference and been heckled for offering teachers a pay rise."
She told the conference that the reforms were about allowing good teachers to win financial rewards for staying in the classroom. In the past, they had been forced to take on more responsibilities if they wanted higher pay.
Delegates will vote today on whether to take strike action over performance-related pay, which is due to be introduced in September.Reuse content