'In January the General Teaching Council published an interesting survey. It was a poll of 70,000 teachers ??? which by any standards is a huge sample. So we should take its findings seriously.
It reported that nine out of 10 teachers felt that the media had little or no respect for teachers ??? well as a politician I understand that the media are not always the most objective judges. However, three quarters of the teachers surveyed felt that the government was guilty of the same fault of lack of respect. I don't agree with that view but I do believe that it is honestly held and I acknowledge that it is my job to put that right.
But for me the really puzzling thing was that seven out of 10 teachers said that the general public had little or no respect for them.
That is all the more surprising because it comes at a time when other polls tell us that teachers are seen in a very positive light ??? for example they are in the same league as nurses for being trusted. And a recent survey by the National College for School Leadership showed that head teachers are viewed as one of the top role models. And the overwhelming majority of the public see teaching as a highly skilled job.
If you don't trust the polls then listen to this ??? the verdict of Her Majesty's chief inspector. Standards in schools have risen because the quality of teaching is better. Our evidence shows more good teaching and fewer poor lessons than ever before. It is no longer unusual for an inspection team to report no unsatisfactory teaching at all during the week of an inspection.
Or to take yet another indicator look at the numbers applying to become teachers. Enrolment in conventional teacher training courses has increased by 20% over the last three years. And ??? just as significant ??? the number of graduates switching into a career in teaching has increased to over 3,500 a year.
It has not always been like this. Some 20 to 30 years ago there was a very different picture.
In the 1970s and 80s strikes and concerns about school standards eroded trust in the teaching profession.
As recently as 1988 the chief inspector of schools reported: 'There are serious problems of low and under-achievement and of inadequate provision.
'In some schools some 30% of what HMI saw was judged poor or very poor.'
But times and attitudes have changed for the better. Teachers are valued. Teachers are respected. Teachers are winning back the place and role in society that they have traditionally enjoyed.
You and your members have won back that trust because you have worked with successive governments, with head teachers, with colleagues, with parents and with pupils to raise educational standards and to improve the life chances of the pupils in your care. You have worked hard ??? really hard ??? to improve the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. Your profession deserves credit for that and I am delighted to pay public tribute to you. And the result of the commitment of your profession is that standards are rising.
Recent international reports show that this country is third out of 35 developed nations for literacy standards at age nine, and seventh and eighth respectively for literacy and maths at age 15. And so now on the basis of that signal achievement, all teachers have a simple choice. It is between building on what has been achieved, as your union has decided to do, or throwing it all away in what the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers last Tuesday described ??? and I quote ??? as 'a return to traditional old trade union industrial action, brothers and sisters, comrades'?
And by the way the so-called 'comrades' who Mr McAvoy applauds are those described by the education editor of The Times as the 'members of militant, the socialist workers party and workers power who are among 57 varieties of socialist factionalism vying to push the NUT into confrontation with the government'
They are the same people, by the way, who succeeded yet again in turning over the leadership of the NUT and committing their union to a campaign of militant industrial action on a kaleidoscope of issues, some serious and significant, others manufactured and malevolent.
Let me tell you why I did not attend the NUT conference. It was not because I am 'totalitarian' or 'McCarthyite' in my attitude to trades unions, as Mr McAvoy claims. It is because in my view nothing does more to depress the reputation and standing of teachers than to broadcast the annual antics that go on there, and which we have seen again this week.
It is posturing and sloganising at its worst. It is the sort of performance that even the House of Commons on a bad day or any political party conference never comes near to matching. And when they see it, parents and the public think: 'Are these the people that teach our children?'
So I decided to come here rather than go there because I want to engage in serious dialogue ??? and we do indeed need serious dialogue and because I want to uphold and enhance the reputation of teachers. We need to reject the past and to build on what has been achieved and I am entirely committed to that goal.
Teachers are rightly held in high esteem ??? but I believe that they will forfeit that esteem if they start back down the path of strikes, boycotts and sending children home. Those are the tactics of the discredited past and not the strategy we need to build a confident future. Those tactics will alienate parents and demoralise everyone who wants to promote our public educational system.
Teachers are respected because they are professionals and the more so when they act like professionals. They must not throw away that prize. Teachers have done much to earn renewed respect from parents and the public. I believe they are also entitled to be shown respect in the classroo m.
I know that this is an issue upon which thisunion feels particularly strongly. I understand your concerns and I am grateful for the advice on pupil management you have developed with the Secondary Heads Association.
We have repeatedly made clear that we support head teachers who take firm action to deal with violent or disruptive pupils, including permanently excluding them. We have also made clear in guidance that we would not normally expect an independent appeal panel to reinstate a pupil who had been permanently excluded for violence ??? and other serious offences such as supplying drugs.
In January we reformed the exclusion appeal arrangements so that people who understand the realities of dealing with school discipline, particularly serving or recently retired head teachers, are always represented on appeals panels. In addition, appeal panels must balance the interests of the excluded pupil against the interests of the rest of the school community and they cannot reinstate a pupil just on a technicality.
The Anti Social Behaviour Bill going through Parliament will strengthen the powers of head teachers, LEAs and education welfare officers in dealing with unauthorised absence. It will also give LEAs and schools a statutory power to arrange parenting contracts with parents whose children have been excluded for serious misbehaviour. The Behaviour Improvement Projects in the 34 LEA areas with the highest rates of truancy and street crime are a further example of our determination to tackle this issue. So this government will work with the profession to build respect for teachers inside and outside the classroom.
But I have to say that the main reason why teachers are respected is because standards are rising - and we know standards are rising precisely because test results as well as Ofsted reports confirm this.
So let me today address the concerns about testing which do exist. First of all, let me make it clear that no one - least of all myself- is saying that tests are the be-all and end-all of teaching or going to school. They absolutely are not.
Last month I published a consultation paper that opened up debate on how we should develop subject specialism within schools ??? a particular passion of mine. At the heart of the paper is a simple message. That learning should be fun. It should be stimulating and enriching. And that this will best be achieved by teachers who are enthusiastic, excited and engaged and able to inspire.
It will be achieved by teachers, who keep up to date with developments and know how to teach and communicate their subject. They will ensure that every child succeeds; they build on what learners already know; they make learning vivid, real and challenging; and they enrich the learning experience.
The paper suggested a range of ideas from national centres to improved professional development, to more imaginative use of technology, to greater involvement of outside experts to increased use of the subject associations. I very much hope your union will respond positively to this paper.
Next month we plan to publish a primary strategy. That too will dispel the myth that our view of education in the early formative years is just about regimented learning of the basics. Primary schools should be places that fill children with the joy of learning and discovery and provide them with the opportunities to explore the natural world and to develop their creative talents.
But none of this should hide the fact that the basics are also important.
There are seven million adults in this country who have not got basic literacy and numeracy skills. The schools system failed them in the past. We cannot allow that to continue, since it is not just an educational failure it is a moral outrage. Our past failures have denied millions of people the opportunity to fulfil their potential and we have both to address the failures of the past and to ensure
that they are stopped in the future.
The literacy and numeracy strategies are helping to tackle this scandal ??? they are increasing life chances for hundreds of thousands of children.
Let me set out the facts.
Only 11% of those children who did not achieve SATS Level 4 at Key Stage 2 in 1997 managed to get five good GCSEs in 2002. These figures show why we attach so much importance to Key Stage 2 results. Achieving Level 4 really does open the door to success in secondary school and beyond.
Every child needs this foundation for learning. And so we have to do whatever we can to maximise the number of children who do achieve SATS Level 4 at Key Stage 2.
And what the results show us is that there is a massive variation of school performance in helping children achieve that Key Stage 2 target. It's not a variation between schools in the leafy suburbs and schools in the inner cities. It's a variation at every level of relative poverty.
At any given proportion of free school meals, there is a variation in school performance of between 44 and 71 percentage points. It is a massive range, which is unacceptable large. These tests enable us to see the value schools are adding.
They show us what can be done. They show us that if schools below the median for Key Stage 2 results match the performance of the median schools in their free school band then another 5% of children will reach level 4. And if they match the performance of the top quartile then another 10% of pupils will reach the standard for their age.
The demand to improve is not unreasonable, it is entirely rational. It is fair to ask all schools to reach the performance of what others in similar circumstances are achieving and we will continue to demand that.
This is not for some dry political purpose - for a politician like me to say we that we have hit a target.
It is for the sake of the children whose lives we are trying to improve. I give the Key Stage 2 test as an example to illustrate this central point. The universal tests at 7, 11 and 14 help us tra ck the progress of every single child. They help to identify those pupils that need extra support as well as those who need to be stretched and given more advanced work. They provide the data which really can help teachers help their pupils, and we need to do more to make that a reality.
And incidentally the tests also provide hard proof of how much teachers are achieving. So while we remain open to listen to constructive points from unions such as yours ??? and indeed from others ??? about the content of the tests, the tests are here to stay.
And so too are targets.
We will listen to sensible suggestions for improving the way we set and measure them. I know that your union has views and I am very happy to discuss them.
But I have to say candidly that I will not follow the advice offered by my Conservative opposite number on these matters.
He chose the NUT audience to announce with a flourish a 'bonfire of targets'. He elaborated by stating that the Conservative party will 'abolish the Key State 2 Targets'. He says that 'the Key Stage 3 targets will go too'. And he states that his party will 'get rid of the GCSE target'.
Knowing Mr Green, I am sure that these dramatic remarks were not simply an attempt to play to the NUT gallery but they were a serious and historic change of Conservative policy. They should be treated and judged as such.
Mr Green was supported by Phil Willis for the Liberal Democrats, who stated that 'We support very strongly the principle of getting rid of the tests.' These are not the views of the government. We know that targets are important means to change things for the better.
We understand that every sports man or woman sets themselves targets for improvement. We know that companies set objectives for sales, costs and profits.
We understand that trades unions set ambitions for recruitment or for negotiating improvements for its members.
We appreciate that professional teachers set learning objectives for their s tudents. Goals and targets set a standard. They show us what we have to achieve in our chosen area. Public services cannot stand apart from this, and nor should they. To be a professional is to accept the need to improve standards continually.
Your union understands that being a professional means conducting yourself like a professional. You understand that modern professionalism is not about trying to protect narrow or fading demarcations but it is about having a set of skills which you go on developing all your life in order to provide the best possible outcome ??? in the modern world ??? for the people you are trying to serve ??? in your case pupils.
A professional has the confidence to know and value the support that other members of team can bring. Qualified teachers will always ??? and rightly - be the lead professionals in any school, but other staff have a vital role in helping to raise standards and to support the life of the school. And one of the things that we've learnt is that having more adults in the classroom can have a real and lasting impact on pupils' behaviour.
In is in that spirit that you have been key partners in the workforce agreement. I want to pay tribute to your executive and to your general secretary for the leadership they have provided in navigating this difficult exercise. It has taken people of vision and courage to bring this about. And I believe that the enterprise in which we are engaged will benefit not just your members but the whole teaching
profession, and so the present and future pupils in our schools.
The workforce agreement is significant in a number of ways. It is making a statement about the relationship between the majority of teaching trade unions and the government. Neither of us is saying we agree with each other all of the time. We have our differences. We will continue to have our differences. That is inevitable and indeed desirable and healthy. We have different roles and different tasks.
But we are a real par tnership. We know that in partnership both government and teachers will deliver better education and life chances for our children. We know that we represent different constituencies but we have a common interest. And we know that our relationship is about more than cold, aggressive and antagonistic collective bargaining. The workforce agreement is in its infancy. But we have made a start. From September this year we are recognising that every teacher is entitled to a work life balance. And we recognise that teachers should not usually do 24 routine clerical and administrative tasks.
From September 2004 we are setting a limit on how much cover teachers can be asked to do and we have said that over time we want teachers to cover rarely, if at all. And from September 2005 we have agreed that teachers should have time in their time tabled school week for planning preparation and assessment.
We are consulting on the precise terms of what should be in teachers' contracts in the future. We are also consulting on the draft standards that higher level teaching assistants will have to meet.
We have established the independent Implementation Review Unit to reduce bureaucracy and hold the department to account for the demands it puts on schools and teachers. With the support of your deputy general secretary, Chris Keates, we have appointed 12 teachers and head teachers to work in the heart of government running this unit.
Of course, we still have a huge journey to travel, and I am sure that we will make mistakes and encounter difficulties. But this is contractual change - it will happen. It needs to be a priority for schools over the next three years - using their time, energy, creativity and resources to make the most of the agreement.
If there are any in this hall who seriously think that workforce reform is about undermining or diluting teachers' professionalism I would ask them to note that we are training 6,000 more teachers a year than we were six years ago and that we stand by our manifesto commitment to increase the number of teachers over the lifetime of this Parliament by a further 10,000 at a time when pupil numbers are falling.
I emphasise today as strongly as I can that the workforce reform agenda is not about undermining professionals but about supporting a new form of professionalism. That is our commitment and we want to work with you to achieve it.
But I know that there are many who are anxious about this year's funding settlement, both in its own terms and for its impact upon workforce reform.
I want to explain what I think has been happening.
When we came to power the amount of funding per pupil had fallen in real terms by four per cent in five years. Every year since 1997 that figure has risen. In this year we shall in real terms be spending £800 more per pupil than we were in 1997 and the fact that we have 20,000 more teachers and 80,000 support staff than we did six years ago is proof of that. And the real term increases will keep coming -
each year of this spending review. That is not a commitment every political party will make. Education has been, is and will be a priority for this government.
That is the starting point, the background.
Now the funding for every individual school is based upon the relationship between three decisions.
In 2003/04 spending for schools is increasing by 11.6% in cash terms ??? £2.7bn. That is what the combined increase in the formula funding and Schools Standards Grant represents.
However, there are of course significant pressures on school budgets this year - increases in pension and National Insurance contributions, as well as pay rises. In total £2.45bn. However, even allowing for all those pressures there is still a real terms increase - some £250m, taking the country as a whole. These are of course national figures.
And it is true that there are significant changes in the distribution of funding - changes for which some here argued - which mean that the national averages can mean little for individual schools or head teachers. 2003/04 has been a big year for changes in the overall system of funding.
But these changes do mean that each child now attracts the same level of basic funding, wherever they live. There is extra for each child in deprived circumstances - since it costs more to achieve the same results for them. There is also extra funding for LEAs in high-cost areas, to recognise the extra costs of recruiting and retaining staff. Rural authorities' extra transport costs are also recognised.
In addition to the changes in education formula spending we also, as many people requested, moved money from the Standards Fund into mainstream funding. This has also caused further turbulence in the system.
To minimise the impact of these changes we initially set a 3.2% floor in funding per pupil in each LEA to cover cost pressures ??? on top of the additional funding for the increased cost of pensions. We subsequently made a further £28m available so that the 3.2% floor also took account of the changes in the standards fund, benefiting about a quarter of LEAs. We also paid a special grant costing £11m to 18 London LEAs to help them fund the London weighting increases, following the STRB report.
That was the basis of the government's funding of Local Education Authorities. And of course it is LEAs, and not the government, which distributes money directly to individual schools.
Each LEA decides its own education budget and sets its council tax. It then makes a range of decisions which determine the budget for every school.
As we do every year, we are collecting data from every LEA about their budgets and the decisions they have made. Over 90 LEAs have so far sent us information. I should emphasise that the preliminary data which I am showing here is based on the initial returns which we have so far received. This data is currently being checked back with LEAs.
A number of issues arise.
More LEAs than expected appear not to have passported 100% of education formula funding to education, despite indicating ??? as recently as February ??? that they would. Two of the authorities where there are particularly vociferous complaints from schools have the lowest council tax levels in the country. They have both failed to passport 100% of this year's education increase and both also choose
to spend significantly less on their schools than they are funded for.
There are big variations in the proportion of the increase in Schools Budget which is actually being passed to schools. In three quarters of LEAs the increase in funding that is going direct into the individual budgets of schools is lower than the overall increase the LEA has made for school funding.
Some authorities have made huge increases in funding for special educational needs ??? while others are making reductions.
Nearly a quarter of LEAs are planning to use more than £2m of revenue funding for capital projects.
These authorities still have some £339m to allocate to schools - equivalent to around £500m for all LEAs. A fifth of authorities appear still to have £5m or more to allocate to schools.
Of course this picture at school level is then complicated by reductions in the numbers of pupils between LEAs, within LEAs and between primary and secondary schools. It is sometimes difficult to avoid confusing concerns about the general funding situation with reductions in funding that flow from a falling number of pupils on a school's roll.
But finally, there are significant variations in the formulae which LEAs use to allocate money to individual schools. And there are big variations in the increase between pupils. Some use a floors and ceiling approach - as we do at national level for LEAs - to cushion changes in funding. Others do not, and appear to have taken no account of particular budget pressures.
I emphasise that the figures which I give today are based upon the prelimi nary returns from LEAs. The figures require checking and double-checking. However, I am determined to publish the detailed figures, as the LGA has requested.
It would not be right to do this in the middle of a local election campaign when, quite rightly, strict rules operate about publication of government data. But very shortly after local government polling day, I will publish a detailed analysis of LEA allocations decisions, based on the statutory data councils have sent us.
At the same time I will write to all LEAs asking them to justify their decisions on the issues set out above and asking them to set out the steps that they are intending to take to avoid any possible redundancies of teaching staff because of perceived funding issues.
In the light of the information they provide I shall consider what changes to make regarding funding arrangements for 2004/05, and of courses I will welcome views. So in conclusion my message to this union is this.
As you know from your everyday experience in the classroom, respect has to be earned. Teachers as a whole have earned that respect. But respect is a prize to be cherished not cast aside.
Provided that you do not throw it away you are then entitled in turn to be shown respect by pupils and parents.
And you are entitled to be shown respect by this government.
I do respect the NASUWT. I do respect the way you conduct yourselves as a union. Yours is the modern way and the professional way.
We will listen to and we will work with you.
I am sure that we will disagree with you and we will argue with you. But what we will share is the determination to raise educational standards, to strengthen the professionalism of teachers and to enable the young people in our charge to meet the challenges of the future.'