March 25, 2013 12:00 am

Head of teachers union attacks Gove policies

Michael Gove, education secretary, is “shamefully neglecting’’ schoolchildren and pushing ahead with damaging reforms based on dogma rather than evidence, the head of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers will say on Monday.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, in a staunchly critical speech will admit that she is swerving from her usual moderate stance to attack Mr Gove’s policies, which she says are “harming and undermining” pupils. In particular, she will accuse the government of forcing headteachers to convert schools into academies against their will and meddling needlessly with the curriculum and exam system.

Ms Bousted’s address, which will open the ATL’s annual conference in Liverpool, comes days after the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT, the two biggest teaching unions, announced they would begin strikes in June to protest against changes to pay and pensions, and concerns about workload.

Mr Gove’s decision to end automatic pay increases and move teachers to a system of performance-related pay has caused widespread outcry but the ATL, which represents about 170,000 teachers, has declined to support the industrial action this summer.

Pre-empting weeks of criticism during the teaching unions’ Easter summits, the education secretary accused those threatening strikes of being “ultra-militants” and “Marxists” who were standing in the way of progress. “They oppose our plans to pay good teachers more because they resent the recognition of excellence and they hate academy schools because heads in those schools put the needs of children ahead of the demands of shop stewards,” Mr Gove wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

But Ms Bousted is expected to hit back on Monday, telling her members that Mr Gove is bringing the government into disrepute by introducing reforms which ignore expert opinion. She will say it is her duty to “castigate the man who is undermining everything we stand for”.

“Michael Gove should take heed,” the general secretary is expected to say. “When the changes come so thick and fast, without time for consultation or even consideration; when the changes are so wrong-headed, so damaging to children’s education, then the morale of the profession plummets.”

Ms Bousted will also accuse Mr Gove of moving policy too far and too fast, and draw attention to U-turns such as the decision this year to drop planned reforms to the GCSE exams.

“Your constant meddling, changes and U-turns make life impossible for today’s youngsters,” she will say. “Young people have just one chance, in each lifetime, to receive a broad and balanced education.”

However, the Department for Education said these accusations “couldn’t be further from the truth”.

“For too long standards in our schools have been declining,” a spokeswoman said. “We need to make sure we have an education system that is robust and rigorous, with exams and qualifications that match the world’s best. This is surely something the ATL should be applauding.”

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