A PHYSICS teacher from County Durham heading one of the country’s biggest teaching unions has lashed out at the government for “deliberately undermining” educators and blaming them for “the ills of society”.
Taking up a new role as president of the NASUWT union, Belmont Community Arts College tutor Mick Lyons launched a stinging attack on ministers, who he accused of using education as a “political football”.
“Daily denigration of the work and commitment of teachers, false claims of plummeting educational standards, and attacks on jobs, salaries, conditions of service and pensions are leaving teachers heartily sickened and demoralised,” the former president of the Durham County Rugby Football Union said.
“Since 2010, we have seen the imposition of damaging and ideologically-driven changes to the curriculum, assessment and qualifications systems, the ratcheting-up of accountability pressures on schools, and the use of inspection regimes as a political instrument to force through structural reforms, including privatisation and academisation in England.
“These developments are increasing daily the pressure on classroom teachers, headteachers and principals and are distracting schools and colleges from their most important task of educating children.”
Addressing the union’s annual conference in Bournemouth Mr Lyons said that education has not been protected from public spending cuts, and such austerity was damaging children’s education “at a time when we should be investing more to secure economic recovery for the long term”.
“I came into teaching, as did all colleagues here today, to improve the life chances of children ,” he said.
“That is what teachers do, but our profession is being attacked by interests who do not recognise the intrinsic value of education, who want to control the curriculum and dictate the work of teachers, and who are determined to strip us of our professionalism.
“Education, once again, is being used as a political football. Expensive and disruptive short-term changes are being imposed without the agreement of teachers and in ways that teachers recognise as damaging to education.
“Teachers are not only having their professionalism undermined, but we are also now subject to public denigration and being blamed for the ills of society – whether that be the scandal of record levels of youth unemployment or the problems of antisocial behaviour, violence, alcoholism or obesity. It is no wonder that fewer graduates are applying to come into teaching and that half of teachers want to leave the profession.”
Mr Lyons, who has taught physics at the same school for over 30 years, also used his speech as an opportunity to thank his colleagues, his headteacher Judith Wilkinson, his fellow union members in the Durham City branch – including former chair Terry Bladen – and his wife Jean for their support.
The Department for Education (DfE) insisted that the new curriculum will give every pupil a “broad and balanced” education.