Headteachers: are you paying attention?

They were, quite literally, going through the motions at the National Association of Head Teachers' annual conference in Birmingham at the weekend.

In fact, they raced through the agenda so quickly that they had 20 minutes to spare after the last one. Which is a shame, because sometimes motions got passed with just the barest hint of discussion.

Take the one that called for a moratorium on school inspections during the lifetime of the next Parliament, arguing that schools could then concentrate on improvement rather than what they saw as punitive inspections.

Even the mover of the motion was forced to acknowledge that this was a bit of a "pipe dream" – but then, what's wrong with dreaming?

The tempo improved on the last day of the conference, after the president, Gail Larkin, urged the audience not to be too shy to come to the rostrum. There were some good points made in a critique of Education Secretary Michael Gove's GCSE and A-levels, particularly from special-school heads, who feared their pupils would have more difficulty in accessing the exams now they were just aiming for a sudden-death, end-of-course exam rather than coursework,

Funny, though, that the heads seem reticent to take centre stage. That never happens at the National Union of Teachers' annual conference.

I realise that I risk being considered less than supportive to the editors of The Independent and its sister paper, the i, both of whom have been sporting fine beards for some time, but I think I have found another candidate for the Beard of the Year award. Step forward Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT. He, too, has taken to sporting a fine one during the past year – so much so that it caught the attention of tweeters at the conference at the weekend, who asked how long he intended to keep it. Just long enough to be a contender, I trust.

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