Coffee House

Conservative conference: Michael Gove indulges in his favourite sport of trade union-bashing

9 October 2012

As I was running the daily leaflet gauntlet at the entrance to the Tory conference this morning, a man thrust a flyer for the Trade Union Reform Campaign in front of me, saying hopefully ‘trade union bashing?’. He clearly hadn’t got Robert Halfon’s memo about not bashing the unions, and neither had Michael Gove when he addressed delegates a few minutes ago. He indulged in his favourite sport and took direct aim at the teaching unions, claiming that some union secretaries had told him not to praise high-performing schools as it risked making other schools feel uncomfortable:

‘How can we succeed as a country when every time we find success and celebrate it there are those who say ‘no, someone might feel uncomfortable’. What I feel uncomfortable about is the soft bigotry of low expectations that lead so many to believe that some people can’t be as good as the rest.’

He also attacked unions for telling teachers not to do photocopying (you can see the NUT’s list of tasks that teachers ‘cannot be required to routinely carry out here, on p16), and said the unions had also ordered members to write little more than perfunctory reports for their pupils. This actually roused cries of ‘shame!’ from the conference hall, as though we were actually at a Labour event.

The Education Secretary’s speech was largely defensive: defending why the government thinks free schools will push up standards, defending the way he talks about teaching and schools. He defended his team in the Education department: even those who had been sacked in the reshuffle, and even the Lib Dems. He made no new announcements about policies, mainly because he doesn’t need to. The party and voters are behind him already: this isn’t the remedial work that Chris Grayling is now performing in the justice department, but a celebration of the radical reforms the Tory party has succeeded in pushing through since 2010.

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  • edapt

    edapt was the funder of an independent LKMco report ( into what teachers think of their unions.

    Our opinion, is that it is imperative that teachers in the UK are seen as professionals and are treated as such both by the government and the trade unions. The quality of teaching is the greatest factor in ensuring the best educational progress for our young people. Evidence in the LKMco report shows that the current rhetoric and action from the main teaching unions does not improve education. In our opinion, and that of some of our teachers, strike action, and action short of strike action does not have an impact on the Secretary of State, but on the schools and the young people who they are there to serve.Edapt is very clear that trade unions have a critical role in collective bargaining, but we are also very clear that there is a desire for a different approach in educational policy, at least for the 24% of current union members who responded that they would prefer alternative support if it were available. It is important that teachers have the choice of an alternative provider of support other than from just trade unions, and edapt provides that.

    The views of the whole spectrum of teachers should be heard. There needs to be an ongoing, intelligent, mature, and consultative debate, involving the unions, but most importantly involving those at the chalkface of the teaching profession.

  • Eddie

    The irony is that the teachers’ unions are deeply conservative, resisting all change, always.
    They are ferociously anti-selection, anti-exams, anti-anything that challenges their left wing politically correct ethnic-obsessed view of the world.
    Fortunately, most people see that they are wrong – incl most Liberal Democrats and a good few Labour voters too.
    I used to be a member of a college union – for my own protection, like an insurance policy really. I used to read the union magazine every month or quarter – it was forever chock-full of tales of the fight for ‘equality’ – such as freebie trips to Nicaragua and other exotic climes to ‘observe’ their education systems and ‘share good practice’ – as well as article after article on racism, plus about 80% of the youngsters in photos were ethnic.
    Most teachers are not mentalist left wing nutters – though many are brainwashed into PC thinking by their marxist PC worshipping teacher trainers – but most join unions that are for their own protection.
    Ignore the teachers unions Mr Gove and do what is right: what can the teachers do? Strike and lose public support even more than they have. Get other jobs – yes, but really, what else can most of them do and where would they find a similar big salary, job security and massive pension? Ditto for union officials, academics, council office jobsworths etc.
    To be honest, a lot of the best teachers have left anyway – because now we have a schooling system, NOT an education system that values knowledge, learning, culture and the life of the mind. So most of those left are dullard timeservers waiting for their pension, or bright young bimbos and himbos (though 70% of teachers are female now) who dress like used car salemen and are about as intellectual.

  • Angela

    Reading the Strike Action instruction it seems a pity that the 73% of teachers who belong to that union cannot produce something positive to improve children’s education, which ought to be their prime directive. I’m a secondary school teacher and I’m not a union member, simply because I find that incompatible with my professional integrity as it is apparent that being a member of the Union is synonymous with supporting Labour and taking a left wing position. You wouldn’t believe how difficult and awkward it is avoiding these issues in the staff room as the union activists can be quite aggressive and intimidating. I have to avoid politics but even so I find that certain staff members stigmatise me for not being a Labour party activist.

    The anti-Gove comments here (I think he is doing a good job of trying to improve education for the children) are typical of the unpleasantness of Labour activists who work in education. They seem to think it is theirs by right to control.

    • HooksLaw

      Well said.

    • Ian Walker

      Angela, you can join the Voice union which has no political fund, a no-industrial-action policy and is non-TUC-affiliated, but still gives you the legal protection of a union should you need it at some point.

    • 2trueblue

      Fantastic, well done. I am with you. I began as a nurse and had a union rep challenge me about being on the ward when my shift had ended. And that was in the early ’70’s.

    • ToryOAP

      It is quite indicative that a sensible, reasoned comment such as yours Angela will attract a downtick from one of our resident trolls. The left hate dissent and are against free speech. They dislike being called nazis but their actions here, and in the classroom, show them in their true colours. Welcome to Coffee House by the way.

  • eyebeams

    Well photocopying is pretty redundant as a resource these days but, hey, let Michael don the Thunderbirds “Brains” glasses and pretend he knows stuff.

    • Sarge

      In which case brains, what was the point of withdrawing ones labour?
      Gesture politics. How typical of the left.

      Gove is quoting what the Unions have said – which proves he can read. Given your reply, I wish I could say the same for you..

      Take of the Thunderbirds glasses you are not worthy

      • eyebeams

        Another anonymous mouse that roars. Good for you. Perhaps the unions don’t realise it either.

  • L’Arse

    Did he mention the GCSE debacle, or was the fate of several thousand young people incompatible with the great man’s vision for ‘radical reform’?

    • toni

      The students, and the parents of the children cheated and upset by Gove’s GCSE debacle won’t have forgotten by the time of the next election, neither will it be forgotten in the constituencies where the school building programme promised by Labour was cancelled the minute he took office and that money diverted into his free school project.

    • HooksLaw

      The operation was run by the exam boards and Offcom. No one has been cheated, The later sitters got the mark they deserved, they were not cheated or marked down; the earlier sitters were wrongly marked. Too late to change it.

  • dalai guevara

    The day PFI ruined our public finances was the day I stopped believing we could ever educate our way out of this one.

    • philip sayers

      pfi. intrduced by john major.

      • 2trueblue

        Just because a format exists does not mean you have to use it beyond the beyond. Designing something does not mean that you are responsible for the abuse of future governments of the system. This is akin to Liebore blaming the banks for everything, sounds good but in the end there is a choice. People make the choice daily. In the end we are responsible for our debts, and if governments abuse thier credit limit they should at least have the ‘balls’ to take the blame. Burnham took PFI to a new level and fluttered his eyelashes and gee golly gosh no one noticed the number of projects pushed through when he was in charge of that area.

        • dalai guevara

          One day, when the money has truely run out, someone will finally get the docs out and look at the terms and conditions of the deals. To me, most of what I have seen from the other side smells like gone-off seafood stick…

        • HooksLaw

          The principle of PFI is OK if not taken to extremes. The project still has to be funded over its lifetime and if too many projects are loaded into the system then servicing them puts its under strain.
          PFI covers maintenance and other things not just capital costs.
          In a downturn its maintenance which is the first to be cut back and with PFI you cannot do that. Brown’s splurge on PFI has left an overhead that cannot be cut.

  • Fergus Pickering

    But the Education unions are such an easy target. They are so obviously special interest groups. For them education is the stuff that exists to give their members jobs.

    • telemachus

      See the facts on the ground thread:-
      Part of Gove’s agenda for education is the breaking of the teachers’ trade unions. 73% of teachers are trade union members, compared with 26% of workers overall. The strength of teacher’s unions is a massive obstacle to turning schools into
      profit-making enterprises for big business. They have to be broken.

      • Ian Walker

        Given what an unpleasant lefty you are, I presume the point of that drivel is to make us think this is a bad idea?

        Shame that it all sounds brilliant. If kids are being well educated, who gives a flying f*** whether the school makes a profit?

      • Sarge

        No need to depend on Gove – the unions will break themselves,just like the miners,car workers,dockers……..teachers learning from experience……perish the thought. No mention of children in your missive? or are they simply pawns in a union power game?

        Trade unions = the new rotten boroughs.

      • Sarge

        Ah yes trade unions Never accepting their own actions destroyed them. Miners,car workers,ship builders, etc. Never their fault. Teachers learning from experience..perish the thought. As usual no mention of children in your reply. Or are they just pawns in the power game?.

      • Chris lancashire

        Seems you’re getting the idea at last tele. Well done. 8 out ot 10 and get yourself a cake out of the window.

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