Teachers should “go the extra mile” by running after-school clubs and working on Saturdays to raise standards, Michael Gove said today as he launched an extraordinary attack on trade union “bigotry”. This is from the Telegraph…
The Education Secretary suggested that all schools should replicate tactics adopted by the best performers, which expect staff to stay behind in the evenings and at weekends to provide catch-up classes.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, he also said that top schools achieved success by creating an “atmosphere of strict discipline” – ensuring unruly pupils cannot get in the way of other children’s education.
Schools will fail to close the gap between rich and poor pupils without making high expectations of every child and adopting a “no excuses” culture, he said.
But Mr Gove warned that too many children were being held back by the “soft bigotry and low expectations” of teaching unions.
In an outspoken attack, he singled out the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT, which recently launched work-to-rule action as part of a long-running dispute over cuts to pay and pensions.
The unions – collectively representing around nine-in-10 teachers in England and Wales – have told members to refuse to supervise pupils over lunchtime, cover for absent colleagues, invigilate in exams, attend unscheduled after-school meetings or provide more than one formal report for parents each year.
Addressing Tory activists in Birmingham, Mr Gove said that teaching was the “noblest profession, the highest calling”.
But he added: “At the moment the general secretaries of some of their unions are making it very difficult. The general secretaries are ordering – ordering – their members not to cover classes where another teacher might be ill or away at a relative’s funeral.”
He said: “I have a simple message to those union general secretaries: don’t let your ideology hold back our children.”
Mr Gove quoted statistics showing that just one child in 80 who was eligible for free school meals currently went on to a selective university.
The Education Secretary called for more pupils to be given the chance to strive for higher education, insisting the best schools placed “no artificial cap on aspiration”.
He said top schools were staffed by “noble, inspirational people who will go the extra mile; who will stay after the conventional school day ends in order to provide homework or after-school clubs to stretch the mind and also, in some cases, stretch the body; who will also ensure that, for those children who need it, they will be there on a Saturday for catch-up classes”.
Some of the Government’s flagship academies and free schools have already taken advantage of powers to shake up the academic year by axing traditional holidays and staging booster lessons outside the normal timetable.
One school in Norwich is open for six days a week – 51 weeks of the year.
Mr Gove said he had named leading schools in the past while addressing teaching conferences only to be told by union leaders: “Please don’t single out these very successful schools – it makes the others 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’?” he said.
“What I feel uncomfortable about is the soft bigotry of low expectations that lead so many to believe that so many schools can’t be as good as the best schools and I am determined to fight that bigotry wherever I encounter it.”
The comments provoked fury among union leaders.