England must not “short-change” a generation of young people at a time of political chaos, a headteachers’ union leader will warn today.
In his keynote speech to the annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers, general secretary Paul Whiteman will tell delegates that “whatever the outcome” of Brexit, “we will need the best educated and productive generation we have ever known”.
His comments come on day three of an event which has seen headteachers sound alarm bells over school funding, special educational needs provision, teacher recruitment and retention and increasing abuse faced by school staff on social media.
Speaking today, Whiteman will say politicians “have left our country in chaos”, and warn England’s international standing “is at its lowest ebb” and its future “uncertain”.
“Let’s be honest, no matter if you are a brexiteer or a remainer we can all agree our political leaders have been found wanting on this one,” he will tell delegates in Telford.
“Whatever the outcome it will be the generation being educated now that we will depend upon to repair the damage. If we short-change them now, and cut back on their education now, we do so at our own risk.”
The next generation of adults “will need to be equipped to undertake roles that we have not yet even imagined”, Whiteman will say.
“We will need school leavers confident in reading, writing and recalling their times tables but if we limit our measure of achievement to this we will cheat our children and our future. We need young adults leaving education confident of their place in the world.”
But Whiteman will also offer a message of hope, praising heads for the fact that “despite the chaos, despite the frequent heart break, despite the hard work, despite the toll taken on you and your family you carry on”.
“Not only do you carry on but you find solutions and push for improvement. You don’t just throw criticism from the side-lines, you take part, you step up.”
To Whiteman, the NAHT’s task is “to create the best conditions within which school leadership can succeed”.
“In doing so children will receive the very best education possible. Growing the union will create strength and security. Promoting professional communities will create belonging, confidence and professional growth.
“Our voice will be credible and powerful, delivering the influence necessary to succeed. We will work with government, we will advise, and we will campaign with all vigour to highlight what is wrong in the system and encourage those in power to make the right decisions, we will use our voice.”