Teachers have been “treated with contempt” by the government during the Covid-19 pandemic, the leader of NASUWT will say today, as he warns school staff must not take the fall for another exams fiasco.
In his speech to the teaching union’s annual conference, general secretary Dr Patrick Roach will say that teachers have been “applauded and yet disparaged for daring to speak the truth about the risks of reopening schools at the height of the storm”.
Ministers are repeating the mantra that they will be trusting teachers, not algorithms. We all know what that means
He will also demand that ministers “take responsibility and be accountable” for any problems with exams this year, amid concerns teachers could be blamed if things go wrong.
Roach will address the virtual conference almost exactly a year after he unceremoniously became the union’s leader in the early weeks of the pandemic. Instead of assuming the role in front of delegates in Birmingham, the beginning of his tenure was marked with a press release following the conference’s cancellation.
The union leader will say teachers have “kept going” despite “no respite from the storm” of the pandemic. Like other key workers, teachers were “applauded on the doorstep”, but have been “treated with contempt by government insisting that teachers’ efforts were not worthy of a pay award”.
“This pandemic has taught us that we cannot replace schools or teachers if we want the best for children. The pandemic has also demonstrated that our schools and teachers must be better supported, better equipped, to face the future.”
Roach will also call for more government investment in pedagogy, professional development, better working conditions, pay and rewards and “building capacity within our schools and colleges to enable you to focus on teaching and on pupils’ learning”.
Teachers ‘must not be scapegoats’ for government failures
His comments come as teachers are gearing up for the awarding process for GCSEs, A-levels and some vocational qualifications, which will begin in earnest in schools across England after the Easter break.
The switch to teacher assessment this year has prompted fears among many school leaders that their staff will end up taking the blame if there is a similar upset on results days this year. It has also prompted warnings that teachers are coming under pressure from parents and pupils to give good grades.
Last year, the government was forced to abandon its plan for grades calculated by computer algorithm in an eleventh-hour U-turn.
Roach will say today that teachers and leaders “must never be made the scapegoats for the failures of governments”.
“Ministers are repeating the mantra that they will be trusting teachers, not algorithms. We all know what that means. The public knows what they mean.
“Putting as much distance between Ministers and any mess created as a result of their failure to engage meaningfully and fully with the profession.”
He will urge the government to work with unions “now” to “put in place arrangements for next year and beyond that do not mean that any pupil has to trust to fate, to hope for the best – and that every pupil has an equal opportunity to demonstrate their potential and what they have learned”.
His comments come after Gavin Williamson addressed the conference yesterday, thanking teachers for their hard work and pledging to improve training offered throughout their careers as a “central” part of his Covid recovery plan.
He praised teachers for the “inspiring way you switched to remote learning”, and for the “huge lengths you have gone to, to keep everyone in our school community, but also the wider community safe”.
But Roach said yesterday that his members would “not be impressed by the education secretary’s praise of teachers whilst he fails to address the many serious issues impacting on their morale and working conditions and whilst also continuing to insist that teachers’ pay should be frozen this year”.