Shadow education secretary heckled by teachers over Ofsted remarks

Bridget Phillipson was jeered, forcing the NEU president to tell the union’s conference audience to settle down.

Catherine Lough
Tuesday 12 April 2022 14:10
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson addresses the NEU conference on Tuesday (PA)
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson addresses the NEU conference on Tuesday (PA)

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson was heckled by teachers when she said it was time for the schools inspectorate Ofsted to “turn a corner”.

Speaking at the National Education Union’s annual conference in Bournemouth, Ms Phillipson said she wanted to “make Ofsted better”, adding “to be supportive of Ofsted’s role, is not to believe it cannot be better”.

NEU president Daniel Kebede was forced to intervene as shouts of “Ofsted is not welcome here” erupted from the floor, telling the audience: “I’m not going to have this continued shouting out. If you don’t want to be here, no one’s forcing you.”

Around a hundred people who left the conference hall formed a demonstration outside, but the heckling continued within and Mr Kebede told members that they were “like children” and to “settle down”.

I hear all the time from teachers, school staff and school leaders about how they often feel that the way in which inspection is carried out is punitive and not as supportive as it ought to be . So, I understand the frustration that teachers feel around that

Bridget Phillipson, Labour

Many NEU members want to see Ofsted abolished, whereas Ms Phillipson has said Labour plans to reform rather than abolish the inspectorate.

Following her speech, Ms Phillipson said: “I think accountability in schools matters – it matters to parents, but I was also clear that Ofsted does need to change.”

“I don’t think we’re getting the balance right. And I want to speak to teachers, to leaders and to parents about how we make that change and what that looks like. But if that’s going to be effective, it’s got to be a two-way process and that means genuine engagement.”

She added: “You can’t be in a conversation if you’re not taking part in the conversation. If people don’t want to engage, that’s their choice.”

She said that she understood the frustrations of teachers when it came to Ofsted.

“I hear all the time from teachers, school staff and school leaders about how they often feel that the way in which inspection is carried out is punitive and not as supportive as it ought to be.”

“So, I understand the frustration that teachers feel around that,” she said.

Asked if she would return to conference next year, Ms Phillipson said: “I’m always keen to hear from teachers and school staff so always happy to come back.”

Ms Phillipson said the National Union of Students needed to “look again” at the issue of antisemitism within its ranks, following a letter from 21 former presidents raising concerns over how the NUS was responding to allegations of prejudice.

“It’s right that they urgently consider the situation – there can be no place for prejudice or discrimination in any form, in any part of our public life and I think it is vital that the NUS look again at this,” she said.

Ms Phillipson was asked about the NEU’s alliance with activist group Stop The War, which is opposed to the expansion of Nato.

She said: “Labour’s been clear that we stand behind the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government against the terrible aggression that they’re seeing from Putin’s Russian forces.”

“We have seen in recent days in particular appalling atrocities, horrific images and terrible stories of what has been carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine – that’s where Labour’s focus will be on in making sure that we back Ukrainian government and that we see an end to Russian aggression.”

“That has to also involve tougher sanctions, clear responsibility that this rests with Putin’s Russia.”

An emergency motion on the war in Ukraine at the conference on Tuesday afternoon calls for recognition of “Ukraine’s right to sovereignty and self-determination” but adds that the “deployment of British and Nato forces in Ukraine would be a dangerous escalation” and that “this war must not lead to an expansion of military alliances in Europe”.

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