Justine Greening pulls out of NAHT conference

Justine Greening pulls out of NAHT conference

Justine Greening will not address the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers this weekend after her visit was cancelled by the Department for Education.

The education secretary was due to speak at the event in Telford on Saturday morning, but has pulled out at the last minute.

Schools Week understands that her appearance was cancelled by DfE officials following the announcement that there will be a snap general election on June 8.

It is a shame that the secretary of state will not have the opportunity to build on the constructive dialogue that has begun

Ministers are restricted on the activities they can carry out in their official roles during the pre-election ‘purdah’ period, but are still allowed to appear as candidates.

In 2015, the NAHT conference took place just a few days before the general election, but Nicky Morgan, the then education secretary, appeared at the event, as did schools minister David Laws.

Russell Hobby, the NAHT’s general secretary, said it was normal for the education secretary to address the conference every year, but that the short-notice cancellation reflected “the speed of the announcement about a general election”.

“It is a shame that the secretary of state will not have the opportunity to build on the constructive dialogue that has begun. The general election now requires all parties to set out their plans for education in the next parliament.

We believe that any party seeking to form a government should commit to fully and fairly funding education, reversing the £3 billion of real term cuts that schools are facing and providing enough money to make a success of the new national funding formula.”

It comes after Greening was heckled by headteachers when she addressed the Association of School and College Leaders annual conference in Birmingham in March.

It also follows a period of more than a week in which the Conservative Party has not announced a single new education policy, despite Labour having put forward several proposals including plans to reduce class sizes and bring back the education maintenance allowance.

Schools are still waiting to hear exactly how the government will legislate to expand selective schools if it wins in June, and the issue is expected to be high on the agenda at the NAHT’s conference.

Earlier this week, the union argued that more grammar schools “should not be a priority for the future of education”.

The union released its top five priorities, including funding education “fully and fairly”, a national strategy for teacher recruitment and retention, fair methods to hold schools to account, valuing a broad range of subjects in the school day and ensuring schools are supported by health and social care services.

“We have chosen to focus on the issues that really matter to higher standards for all children,” said Hobby.

“Further change to structures, like the expansion of grammars, would miss the point. Academic selection at eleven makes outcomes worse for the majority of children in that area. We cannot afford such an elitist policy in the twenty-first century.

“NAHT would like to see a system where every student has access to high quality education in the school nearest to them. Grammar school expansion is a distraction from the issues that matter most. A good place to begin would be to reverse the £3 billion in real-terms cuts. We should stop seeing education as a cost and instead see it as an investment in the future.”