Election purdah rules make minister attendance at union conference a “political matter”, says DfE

Election purdah rules make minister attendance at union conference a "political matter", says DfE

General secretary of the Association of  Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)  Dr Mary Bousted has accused education secretary Nicky Morgan of turning her back on the union’s Easter conference.

But a spokesperson for the DfE told Schools Week that election purdah regulations will be in force during the conference, therefore attendance by any ministers in the department would be a “political matter”. It would be up to them “whether to attend or not”, she added.

A Department for Education spokesman said earlier that the education secretary would not be able to attend because of diary commitments. Schools Week was unable to confirm with Conservative Central Office if any Conservative ministers would attend the conference.

David Laws has said he is unable to attend as he will be writing his party’s election manifesto.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt will speak at the conference.

It is the first time the Coalition has not sent a minister to address ATL’s annual conference. For the last two years, Mr Laws has attended, while in 2011 and 2012, Nick Gibb gave speeches.

Dr Bousted told a pre-conference press briefing that the education secretary was “invited repeatedly, she has chosen not to attend”.

“We don’t know why she is not attending, and I think this gives further suspicion and cynicism around the whole workload challenge, which was meant to be about reducing teacher workload and listening to the voice of the profession.”

The ATL has not had a secretary of state in attendance at its conference since 2009, despite asking them to attend every year.