Education & Family

Hunt promises to give 'respect' to teachers

Tristram Hunt Image copyright PA
Image caption Tristram Hunt promised a "new deal" for teachers under a Labour government

Labour's Tristram Hunt says he wants to put "trust back in the relationship" between ministers and teachers.

The shadow education secretary told a teachers' union conference a future Labour government, would give teachers "the respect that you deserve".

He attacked the coalition government's "hostile rhetoric" towards teachers.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said Labour would would "undo all of the hard work we've done to increase teachers' freedoms".

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said Labour might "talk the talk" on education, but there was little of substance in their promises.

Speaking at the NASUWT union conference in Cardiff, Mr Hunt promised a "new deal" for teachers and a more teacher-friendly approach if Labour got into power after the general election.

He accused the coalition government of deliberately trying to present the teaching profession in a "negative light with the public", directing "deplorable, hostile, almost militaristic rhetoric towards the profession".

'Initiative-itis'

"What possible justification can there ever be for a government to denigrate the contribution of public servants in this manner?" said Mr Hunt.

He told teachers that he would "roll back the bureaucracy" facing teachers and "call time on the ceaseless 'initiative-itus', the constant tinkering with performance measures, curriculum, assessment criteria and school structures".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said teachers had been given "more control"

Mr Hunt said that teachers and profession-led bodies should have a more significant role in areas such as "professional standards, quality assurance, curriculum development".

And he promised that Ofsted could adopt a more "constructive, peer-review model of inspection led by outstanding heads and inspiring teachers".

Setting out the education priorities for Labour in the election campaign, he called for all teachers to have qualified teacher status or to be moving towards it and to allow local authorities to be able to open new schools "on an equal footing with other providers".

He signalled that Labour would end the expansion of free schools and adopt a more strategically planned approach to creating new places for a rising population.

Mr Hunt also promised support for childcare, early years services and a renewed effort to reduce child poverty.

'No magic wand' on funding

The National Union of Teachers conference in Harrogate is set to hear calls for a strike over pressures on school funding on Sunday.

But Mr Hunt said: "The cold truth is that there is no magic wand we can wave to take away the double squeeze of public finance and demographic pressures."

The long-term challenge for England's school system, he argued, was how to ensure that it was robust enough to deliver the basics for all pupils, while allowing scope for the creativity and innovation needed for a 21st Century globalised economy.

NASUWT leader Chris Keates welcomed Mr Hunt's speech and said the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were "notable by their absence" from the teachers' union conference.

"Poverty is poisoning the optimism of our youth and derailing and degrading the life chances of our children," she said, referring to his commitment to reduce child poverty.

The NUT responded to Mr Hunt's speech by saying it welcomed the proposed changes to Ofsted, but the union "looks forward to discussing with Labour how they will fund the increase in pupil numbers we are projecting".

'Teachers' freedoms'

But Mrs Morgan, education secretary and Conservative, said: "We'll take no lessons from a party that let young people down and overwhelmed teachers with administrative burdens when they were in power.

"Trusting teachers is at the heart of our school reforms - we're giving them more control over what they teach and how they teach it. That's because we respect our teachers and recognise they know what's best for young people in their charge.

"As a result, we now have a million more children being taught in good or outstanding schools, 100,000 six-year-olds reading more confidently, and more children taking the core academic subjects that help them get on in life.

"Tristram Hunt and the Labour party would undo all of the hard work we've done to increase teachers' freedoms, raise standards in the classroom and restore faith in our qualifications."

Responding to Mr Hunt's speech, a Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "Labour may talk the talk but so far have done little more than insult teachers with proposals for a bureaucratic licensing system and a patronising Hippocratic oath.

"In government, Liberal Democrats have shown we trust teachers by giving the profession control of our £2.5bn pupil premium; backing a new Royal College of Teaching; axing Labour's hated A*-C league table measure, and successfully fighting to implement independent recommendations on pay.

"The overwhelming majority of teachers came into the profession for the right reasons and with high ambitions for children. We need to protect education budgets to ensure that the profession can continue to attract, reward and retain the very best people."

UKIP's education spokesman Paul Nuttall said the only truth in Tristram Hunt's speech was about the "shameful shortage of primary school places".

But Mr Nuttall said this was not a result of the free school policy, but "mass uncontrolled immigration, brought in by Labour and supported by the Tories and Lib Dems".

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